Helsinki, Finland –
Despite a population of just 5.2 million inhabitants, Finland belongs to the superpowers of athletics. Fueled by more than 1,000 track and field clubs and a rich history in distance running, Finland is globally known to breed a special kind of distance runner: one with “Rullaava,” meaning efficiency and “Sisu,” meaning strength of will.
While we can not give you the “Sisu”, of legendary runners like Paavo Nurmi or Lasse Viren, we can share with you our understanding of a proper running form.
In Finland this proper running form is generally known as “Rullaava,” which literally means “Rolling.” When a runner’s movements are all directed forward, neither up and down nor sideways, the runner achieves greater efficiency. With Forward Running you can find your proper running form, and run more efficiently and stay injury free.
We strongly believe that running is every person’s right. At the same time, more and more runners are entering the sport without any education. With this trend, there is a clear need for running education that is based on solid foundations.
Kirsi Valasti, a renowned Finnish runner, coach, and author and the Finnish Track and Field federation have cooperated to bring the Forward Running programming online.
Karhu’s Forward Running program is designed to help you develop efficient forward running mechanics. This is accomplished by perfecting arm movement, pelvis and upper body position, glute and hamstring strength, knee and quad position, foot position, and ground contact time and push-off. Practicing proper form maintenance under different stressors such as downhill and uphill running also promotes efficient forward running.
The arms dictate the rhythm of the legs, so proper arm swing and carriage is very important for fluid, efficient running. Correct arm swing starts with relaxed shoulders and an open rib cage. The arms should be bent at 90 degrees and held close to the body with the forearms relaxed. When you begin to tire at the end of a long or hard run, proper arm movement can be the key to maintaining your pace and moving forward more efficiently.
Pelvis and Upper Body Position
When the pelvis and upper body position are optimal, you’re better able to utilize the lower half of your body to its fullest potential. Focusing on lengthening your core and lightly activating your deep stomach muscles will help you run with your pelvis angled slightly forward, resulting in hip placement directly over the legs and a more natural forward lean. This automatically regulates stride length and results in more dynamic and powerful running.
Glutes and Hamstrings
Running becomes more efficient when the glutes and hamstrings are utilized to generate a strong transition from one stride to the next. These muscles are activated in the “push” phase of the stride to help propel you forward to the “swing” phase. In the “swing” phase, concentrating on lifting your heels toward your backside will help you utilize the power generated by the push-off and move powerfully on to the next stride.
Knee and Quad Position
A key component of a stable and efficient stride is correct knee and quadricep positioning. The knee should be pointed forward and properly aligned underneath the body, lifting higher with increased cadence but never higher than 90 degrees. Keeping the knees aligned and the hips elevated leads to a more fluid stride and reduced vertical oscillation with every step.
Running with proper foot strike and positioning not only ensures more efficient running; it also reduces the risk of injury to the foot, ankle and knee by channeling leg power forward. Whether you naturally strike on your heel, midfoot or forefoot, this results in less wasted energy and the ability to run faster, farther, easier.
Ground Contact Landing and Push Off
One of the most important factors in forward running is striving for short ground contact time. Since each foot strike equals four to five times your body weight, a short ground contact time and efficient push-off is critical. This is accomplished by rolling forward through the gait cycle quickly onto the ball of the foot and pushing off with strength. In addition, shorter ground contact time helps make each stride more fluid and comfortable, thus reducing risk of injury.
Uphill and Downhill Running
While it is important to adjust your technique due to varying terrain, you can still maximize forward efficiency when running both uphill and downhill. When running downhill, stay relaxed and maintain a strong core while allowing the body to naturally increase the pace and turnover. Don’t force a short, choppy stride. When running uphill, shift your foot and body positioning slightly forward and drive with your eyes and arms. Your stride will naturally be shorter, but it can still be powerful.