Two Simple Techniques to Improve Your Running Efficiency

Much of the activity of running requires less effort than you think. One of these is the leg swing, a movement that makes up a considerable amount of the action. Many runners use a kicking action to bring their foot forward for the next stride yet this use a tremendous amount of unnecessary effort. Once your foot is off the floor it requires no effort at all for it to swing through. Try the following exercise to appreciate how to run more efficiently.

1. Sit on the edge of a table so the whole of your upper legs down to the knees are in contact.

2. Bring back your left leg until it is underneath the table and then let it go so it swings forward. It is important to let it go and not to swing it forward yourself.

3. Let alternate legs swing with minimal effort (just give them a little nudge) and think of each leg as a pendulum. If you are experiencing the need to make them swing by using your hamstrings or quadriceps, think of the space at the back of your knee joint and let go from there.

The same applies to using the shoulders and arms when running. Let’s try a similar experiment with your arms.

1. Stand and think of a line from the tip of your shoulders through the biceps, down the arm to your thumbs. Or just think ‘long arms’.

2. As with the legs, see if you can get your arms swinging straight and by your side with a minimal effort without lifting your shoulders.

Now let your arms bend at the elbow; place your thumb lightly on your index finger, keep your fingers relaxed and again swing your arms without the shoulders lifting. Your hands should be relaxed, nether clenched into a fist or fingers held straight.

These actions of your limbs will help to propel you forward whilst running but require less effort than most runners use.

Roy Palmer is a teacher of The Alexander Technique and has studied performance enhancement in sport for the last 10 years. In 2001 he published a book called ‘The Performance Paradox: Challenging the conventional methods of sports training and exercise’ and is currently working on a new project about The Zone. Please click Running Technique for more information about his unique approach to training.