Running Doctor: Developing good form
Every race will be a learning experience and there are many tricks in proper-racing style. One of racing's most important factors is to learn how to keep an even pace over the distance. As you enter the different races and distances, you will learn how your body reacts to different paces.
When your training and racing skills improve, your time-per-mile will drop. Some beginners find themselves able to race faster than at their hardest training pace because of the adrenaline and emotional energy experienced during the race.
A good racing-style is a must, and if learned early, it can give you edge. The goal of your racing style is good posture, something attainable by lining up the head, shoulders and hips directly over the feet. Start by getting up on your toes and leaning slightly forward in a relaxed position from the ankle to the head -- you should be coming down on the ball of your foot -- then push off with the last bit of weight on the big toe.
If you are in the proper position when racing, you should be pushing the stress behind you by pushing on your toes instead of slamming down on your heels. When this is accomplished, the body can run more relaxed at a more efficient pace. When all is in balance, the muscles will not have to work so hard to hold the head, shoulders or hips in place. With all the body parts in good balance and position, this will allow more efficient energy to be placed into each step, instead of being placed into uncontrolled side-to-side motion.
The maximum propulsion from your feet, in the proper direction, will minimize effort. As you race there will be other muscle groups which are fired-up, such as the hamstrings and quadriceps, but not as much as the calf and other muscle groups in the lower leg.
Our physiological readiness would employ the proper stretching warm-up exercises. It is also important to jog for about six to eight minutes to get-the blood to the muscles and tissues as well as the skin for that all out racing. It helps to run full out for 30-40 yards to raise the body temperature one degree, which helps to get your second-wind. This should be started about 10-15 minutes before race time so than the body is warmed up. If the race is in the early morning, the body temperature is cool, and the muscles and tissues need this warm-up for more efficient, injury-free racing.
Dr. Robert Weiss, a sports podiatrist, was a member of the Medical Advisory Committee of the 1984 and the 1988 Olympic Trials. Weiss, a Fairfield-native, has a practice in Darien. For information, visit his Web site at www.therunningdoctor.net.