Problem: Hip Muscle Strength
Running requires that the hip muscles at the outside of the thigh contracts when the foot touches the ground, allowing the pelvis to remain level to swing the opposite leg through. Weak muscles means the pelvis drops and you have to hike your leg through, again using excess effort with the hip flexors and trunk muscles.
Hip hitching cannot be done in a forward lean position. this weakness also means that the foot will hit the ground hard in front causing a braking, shock through the body and loss of momentum. Remember stop/start again? The feet also end up landing like walking on a tightrope underneath your body instead of under your hips, causing stress on the inside of the ankles, knees and hips and contributes to excess pronation of the foot. As we generally walk less that we used to, hip muscles don’t get the chance to strengthen. (The side plank is one of the exercises you might try)
Tip: 6 Strengthen your hip adductor muscles
Problem: Hamstring strength/flexibilty
Hamstrings shorten with sitting. Running requires strong and relatively flexible hamstrings to push the ground away behind us. Without this backward drive, momentum is lost forcing the quadriceps and hip flexors to pull us forward. If the hamstrings are weak they will get tired as we force them to do more than they can currently do. there are a number of hamstring strengthening and lengthening exercises you can utilise.
Tip 5: Strengthen and lengthen your hamstrings
Problem: Quadriceps/Hip Flexor mobility
Runners worry that the hamstrings are too short to achieve a decent stride length, however, length comes from pushing the ground away behind, not striding in front. If the muscles at the front of the thighs are too short this limits the length of the backward drive, the hamstrings at the back have to contract much more forcefully to push the ground away. This is one of the reasons why hamstrings remain short, cramp often and get strained.
Lengthen hip flexors/quadriceps and the forward lean/backward drive will improve dramatically, so will your speed. Again hip flexors/quadriceps become short from sitting postures. Lunges are excellent for improving length in these muscles.
Tip 4: Focus on lengthening the quadriceps/hip flexors.
So now you know how you should run, but why can’t you? It’s a bit of a chicken and egg scenario. As running is essentially a circular motion each component is linked and therefore difficult to know where to begin.
Problem: trunk mobility
A forward lean is difficult with a stiff trunk through sitting all day. As the trunk rotates, the abdominal muscles which contribute to rotation are stretched on one side and contracted on the other, allowing a rhythmical, and natural elastic recoil of the muscles automatically driving the leg forward. Lack of trunk rotation prevents a good stretch and consequent recoil of the muscles.
The leg is forced to be lifted forward, using the hip flexors and quadriceps. this also causes excessive heel striking to slow down the drive through, which becomes a brake, sending shocks through every joint, in particular causing shin, foot, knee and hip pain. The arms have to work much harder to drive the movement. A stiff trunk forces an upright posture to allow the arms and legs to drive the movement. Little but important forwards/backwards movement at each of the many back joints is required for this rotation.
Tip 3: Rotate the trunk with stretching exercises