If you want to run well without getting injured, make sure you start out with a good baseline strength and flexibility.
Core strength is essential for efficient running form. Test yourself by holding a plank position for ten easy breaths; first on your elbows and then on each side. Your body should hold a straight line from feet to head, without the hips dropping or raising up. Glutes, quads and hamstrings form the essential powerhouse of running. Test yourself with squats and bridging (lie on the floor with knees bent to 90°; lift your hips off the ground so your thighs and body form a straight line). Can you do three reps of 15 each?
There's debate about the pros and cons of flexibility. If you've seen clips of Mo Farah being pulled around by his physio before an event you'll assume his extreme flexibility contributes to his speed. And it appears that good runners are more flexible in their hips than slower runners. However, some research found that less flexible runners are more efficient and use less energy. Whatever the case it’s important to have normal range of motion in the ankles and knees for good propulsion, and as we get older we become less flexible. Test yourself with ankle, quads and hamstring stretches.
Golden rules when getting into running
- Keep up a regular routine of basic strength and flexibility exercises, say three times a week Using a foam roller is a good way to keep muscles flexible and mobile.
- Increase your running g r a d u a l l y ... A rule of thumb is increase no more than 10% each week. For example, if you run 2km twice and 3km once in week 1, that's a total of 7km, so in week 2 don't run more than a total of 7.7km.
- Avoid doing too much too quickly .. factor in recovery time as you increase distance, time or speed. A couple of days between runs is a good idea. Try swimming, walking or cycling on these days.
- Wear shoes that suit you and the terrain you're running on. Fell shoes are not designed to be comfortable on tarmac, and road shoes don't work well on muddy or stony paths. You will increase your risk of injury.
At Running Form in Burton upon Trent http://www.running-form.co.uk/ you can get a free video gait analysis and expert advice on selecting the right shoes for you, and a good cuppa too!