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The Art of Off-Road Running

For me, off-road running is an art. To run naturally over rough off-road terrain at speed, just touching down, landing on mid-foot with minimal effort is an art, but it can be mastered.

Your Feet and Ankles - How They Work

A Biomechanical masterpiece, our feet are made up of 26 bones and more than 33 joints, arranged in columns and arches that vary in stiffness and flexibility, and over 100 different ligaments are needed to lash this elaborate bone-work together. The ankle joint is made up of 3 bones - the Tibia, Fibula and the Talus bone. It is a hinged joint and responsible for planter flexion, dorsi flexion, inversion and eversion.

Proprioception

Our bodies are incredibly good at moving, often without any conscious involvement. Sitting, standing up, throwing, jumping, walking, running - the reason we can do all these movements without thinking is because of something called 'proprioception'; our body's sense of its own position, balance and movement. Proprioception provides us with body awareness.

The proprioception system uses stretch receptors and pressure receptors situated in our muscles, joints and skin to inform our brain about our physical environment and how we are interacting with it.

A large percentage of these receptors are in our feet, the part of our body most in contact with our environment. If we reduce the sensory feedback from our feet to our brains by wearing thick shock-absorbing footwear, then the brain has less information to work with and thus reducing the quality of movement.

Flexibility

Maintaining a health range of movement in your muscles, joints and tendons is vital to a runners life. Regular flexibility work reduces the incidence of aches, pain and injury due to muscle imbalance and tightness, and can increase the efficiency of running form and recovery by improving blood flow to the working muscles and range of motion in joints.

Plyometrics, Strength & Where It's Needed Most

Strengthening exercises are also vital part of a runners life. Achieving balanced muscular and joint stability and strength, improves the power of every stride and helps reduce the risk of injury.

A strong core can improve your running posture and speed. This is because your arms and legs all stem from the core, the strength in your limbs are intimately tied to the strength in your torso.

The main benefit of core strength for runners is increased stabilisation in the torso. When running, core strength allows the pelvis, hips and lower back to work together more smoothly, with less rocking and thus, less excess energy expended. Core strength also significantly improves balance, meaning that you recover quicker from missteps, large and small.

Plyometrics, also known as jump training, are exercises based around having muscles exerting maximum force in short intervals of time, with the goal of both increasing muscular power and speed or explosiveness. The training focuses on learning to move from a muscle extension to a contraction, in an explosive manner - for example, with repeated jumping. Hopping and jumping exercises subject the quadriceps to a stretch-shortening cycle that can strengthen these muscles, increase vertical jump, and reduce the force of impact on the joints.

Plyometric training is also associated with some risks, including an increased risk of injury. It is important to start with basic plyometric training and increase the difficulty gradually to minimise the risks.

Plyometrics routines range from low-intensity double-leg hops to high-intensity drills such as depth jumps, which involves jumping up to and down from boxes or benches as high as 42 inches. Plyometrics can also include jumping over cones or foam barriers, and then advance to bounding exercises performed in straight lines and patterns.

Your Running Form

A proper running technique helps improve performance and decrease your risk of injury and fatigue. The more efficiently you run, the less susceptible you are to injury and fatigue. A good form goes a long way towards helping you meet your goals. It's worth the effort to periodically assess your running style, and if needed, work to improve it.

The Running Shoe

A good running shoe should be low in profile and protect your foot from the environment, yet light enough not to unbalance the foots natural movement. The foot should not be restricted in any way by the shoe and support natural movement.

My Belief

I believe in running naturally, but as runners we have forgotten how to do so. Many years of over cushioned shoes creating poor posture mean around 70% of runners are injured each year. Natural running involves looking back to its most innate form, nothing should change the natural behaviour of the foot and body. The foot should control the shoe, and not shoe over foot - the shoe should not restrict the foot in any way through its natural movement, but protect the foot from the natural environment. Therefore your running shoe should be light, low in profile and flexible.

More Information

For more information or to arrange a training session please call Pete on 0797 7859965 or email pete@peteroper.com.

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