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How to Try to Adjust a Stride to Avoid Injury

Posted by: on January, 6 2012

Jay, I love your instructional videos. I am an XC coach and my girls’ team uses your Myrtl hip routine religiously.

My question is that one of my runners over strides and it causes her to heel striker leading to shin issues. What’s the simplest method to adjust her stride so we can avoid the injury bug this upcoming XC season?

Thanks in advance!

Eldon Jones, St Thomas Aquinas XC, Canton OH

Thanks for email Eldon and great question.

One thing distance coaches can learn from their track counterpart is the use of coaching cues. A cue is something simple you say to the athlete to help them do what you want. They’re often postural or rhythmic in track and field, and in this case I think that all you need to do is give her a postural cue: “Run up tall.” My guess is that if you were to watch her running by looking at her body from just the hips up, not only is she over striding, but she’s leaning forward excessively at the hip. You want her to run with just 1º or 2º of forward lean. My guess is that she’s leaning forward well past that. So, when you say, “Run up tall”, she will hopefully move back a bit, closer to that 1º or 2º area that allows her to really push off the ground and fully use her hip area. She’s going to say, “It feels weird to run this way,” and you’ll say, “Great! The way you were running before was wrong so it should feel weird.” So that’s my first thought.

My second thought, and this can happen with HS girls who have hip joints that are more mobile (i.e. gymnastics or dance or yoga background), is that she’s running with good posture (as described above), but she’s still over striding. In that scenario the cue you want to use is “Stay short.” It’s a great reminder to bring that over striding pattern back to normal. That said, start with “Run up tall,” first and have her work on that for a few weeks, then talk about “Staying short.”

Finally, I think strides and threshold runs are the best time to work on this. You want to teach athletes the proper mechanics at those times, rather than teaching the concepts during longer race pace repeats. Strides, where they don’t have to concentrate as long, and threshold work where they’re not going all out. When they’re running race pace we want them to just run, and hopefully they’ll soon be running with proper mechanics.

Great questions Eldon and best of luck to you and the young woman as you work to correct this problem.

*Coach Jay’s advice is provided as general training information. Use at your own risk. Always consult with your own heath care provider for questions relating to your specific training and nutrition.

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