As we get closer to the summer racing season (although the snow in mid-May makes one wonder) and I spend more time training on the trails around the Pikes Peak region I can not help but notice that a lot of trail runners could use some basic pointers on proper form. Most injuries are a result of over training or improper training and are preventable, the obvious exception to this rule are a crash or contact related injury. So whether you are training for a race or you are a fitness enthusiast out enjoying a run remember to concentrate on maintaining good form to avoid injury and make your workout more enjoyable and pain free. Here are some pointers to apply to trail running to help you improve your form and performance:
1. Always have your core engaged. A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about training your core and how important it is. It is where all movements originate, and what keeps your back safe and your body aligned so you can properly perform in athletics or daily life. So stand up straight.
2. When running up hill stand up straight, again with the core, which allows your lungs to do their job, protects your back and hips and keeps your circulatory system more efficient. If the hill gets steep either shorten your stride while still maintaining your cadence, or power hike to keep your momentum and change your muscle groups slightly.
3. Always be looking ahead, and keep your chin up. Your eyes should be focused about six to ten feet ahead on the trail whether you are going up or down. For those of you that are skiers or boarders it is the same principle, you need to be able to find the best line and stick to it. Keeping your head up allows your airway to stay properly aligned which enables you to take in more oxygen with every breath. And on the downhills it allows you to see what is coming, not what is under you, so you can prepare and react, and hopefully prevent a fall or a collision with a solid object.
4. When running downhill keep your body perpendicular to the trail, and use your quads to control your speed. I can not tell you how many times I have been running up the Barr trail and can hear someone coming from two switchbacks up the trail. The reason is that they are leaning back trying to use their upper body to slow their momentum which causes a lot of unneeded stress on your joints, causes your feet to "slap" on the ground, causes you to work harder and causes you to loose control much easier. If you run downhill with proper form you can be faster, more in control, and not have to work as hard as someone with poor form. The Barr trail is a good place to observe both types of runners, those with good form look graceful, in control, and effortless, those with poor form look out of control and are the ones that almost hit you as you are running up the trail.
5. Try to step over or around rocks, roots or other trail hazards. Even a rock that is large and looks like it will stay in place if you step on it can come loose and cause you to fall or turn an ankle, and the same is true for roots and other obstacles.
These are just a few basic items to keep in mind on your next outing. Every run is different as is every runner and runners of all abilities can benefit from a knowledgeable coach or trainer's advice and assessment.
For more information check out my website: www.elevationathletics.org