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Ester Marsh column: Some tips to make running better

As I have mentioned before, I love this community getting more active. More people walking, running and cycling. I notice it, too, at Salisbury Community Park off Hurley School Road, where they have beautiful trails.

Our Hurley YMCA Warriors XC team practices out there, and over the years we have seen more and more people using this beautiful park. Lots of people have started to run and bike and it makes me happy.

I have had people asking me what to watch for when running. First of all, everyone has a certain running style. You don’t want to change it too much unless it’s very inefficient and/or you are hurting yourself.

Below are running techniques tips which are very beneficial to great running form. For more information and guidance on running you can sign up for the Beginners Running class. David Freeze started another eight-week session Tuesday at Novant. The cost is $65 for 8 consecutive weeks; it includes instruction and running progression from one-half to 3.1 miles, a dri fit shirt and an entry to a 5K. For more information, call David at 704-310-6741 or Steve Clark at 704-202-6601.

Important aspects of running:

• Make sure you complete leg and feet push.

This one is extremely important. It does not matter if you sprint a short distance or run a longer distance, the following should happen after your foot hits the ground. Most of the time when a foot lands, the reaction is to immediately push against the ground. By pushing instantly you lose precious strength from your upper legs. Don’t let your knee bend too much, the small amount is necessary to absorb the impact and to gain strength and elastic power to move forward. Push with the foot only when the leg is completely extended. Many runners anticipate this foot movement, therefore forgetting to complete the leg extension.

• Relax the muscles not in use.

Your muscles use, and need, energy. Parts of your body, like useless arm movements, tight face, neck and shoulders, can be wasting important energy. Maintaining balance, correcting the forward lean, useless arm movements can take away from the needed energy to have a great run. Think that every stride is a continuous play of contraction and relaxing of the leg muscles. It’s only a fraction of a second, but relaxing legs, arms, face, shoulders, hands, can save precious energy for a stronger foot-leg push which makes you gain speed and/or extend your run.

• No bouncing.

The more you bounce the less you move forward. Talking about wasting precious energy. Move forward, it stops wasting useless energy and prevents possible injuries. Great runners normally have an incredibly smooth running style, where the head moves slightly from a horizontal line.

• The best “leg speed frequency/stride length” mix

This depends on which distance you are running and what part of the race you are in, like a final sprint. So many runners do not use their natural stride. Even when you are not running for speed, you still can extend your stride for an efficient, smooth and easier-on-the-joints run.

Now, of course, an efficient running style also requires muscle balance. Include a weightlifting program and cross training. Use the pool for swims, ride the bike or take an aerobics class for a well-balanced spirit, mind and body.

Ester H. Marsh associate executive director at the J.F. Hurley Family YMCA.

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