Running form and staying hydrated
by on Monday, August 4, 2014  (2 comments)

I'd like to focus on a couple specific topics this week. Two things that I've stated frequently at least to certain individuals but I'm not sure I have laid out my points publicly.

Running form

We all know there's been a lot of talk about foot plant (I hate the term "foot strike" but that's for another day) in recent years. In short, we've been told to focus on landing mid-foot or even forefoot. However, is this where the focus should be?

As some of you I'm sure have heard me say before, I believe we should focus higher. My usual mantra: hips forward, chest up and forward, shoulders low and back. I break this down in the following way:

Hips: You should keep your hips so far forward that it feels like, if you shifted them any farther forward, you would fall on your face.

Chest: Imagine you have a harness hooked up to your chest pulling up and forward at a 45 degree angle from horizontal.

Shoulders: Don't hunch over like you're typing on your computer, keep them back. However, also don't tense them up. Keep them low and relaxed. Sometimes I also say thumbs up. Rotating your forearms so your thumbs are up will help rotate your shoulders to a less hunched over position.

Why am I bringing all of this up? Because Jonathan Beverly discussed the hips part, along with a lot of other good form thoughts, at Runner's World.

A lot of good stuff about hip and upper body positioning in there. I'm not going to quote any single thing. Just read it all.

Staying hydrated

I've long been on the losing side of a debate over hydration. I feel there is way too much focus on hydration. Not that we don't need to hydrate but we don't need to replace every drop of fluid we lose the moment we lose it. I remember around 10 years ago someone telling me with great pride how he normally finishes marathons weighing more than when he starts. Really? This is something to be proud of? This is a great accomplishment? How is this going to make me a faster runner?

Well, if you're into it, here's the key to hyperhydration: salt.

However, is such a significant focus on hydration really beneficial?

Even when the cyclists were dehydrated by 3 per cent of their body weight, their performance was unaffected, contradicting decades of warnings that dehydration of more than 2 per cent slows you down.

Combined with plenty of information on how elites tend to lose a higher percentage of their body weight than non-elites (some upwards of 5% body weight) during marathons, this should be telling us something. Maybe we don't need to focus on hydration quite as much as we've been led to believe.

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On running form. Every 1/4 to 1/2 mile I take a form inventory as I run. I go over the points you taught me. One thing I I found regarding the hands is to keep them curled and relaxed as if holding a rolled piece of paper that you do not want to crush.

On hydration. During training runs I never hydrate whether it is a shorter six or seven mile run or my long runs at 14-16 miles. I hydrate after the long runs with about 20 ounces of a sports drink. Otherwise I maintain a healthy hydration rate every day all day and it takes care of itself on shorter mileage days.

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Ed, I don't recall if I mentioned the idea of an occasional checklist to you but that is advice I've offered to people at least as they are adapting changes such as chest up and forward or thumbs up. I think it works well when you're first learning something like those.

I know some people suggest hydrating on any run longer than 30 minutes. Way too extreme. Personally, unless the weather is extreme, I think if you're adequately hydrated in the first place that very few people have a need to hydrate during a run of less than 60-90 minutes. Over that, it really depends on the weather. In the winter, I've gone 2.5+ hours without fluids. In the summer, I usually will plan a hydration stop as my run duration nears 2 hours. Really, it's just a matter of personal experience, though. Some need more, some need less. What almost nobody needs is to get all worked up about hydration every time we lace up our shoes for an hour of running.

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