Regardless what branch of the military you’re in. One thing is for sure. You will be required to perform your branch specific annual PFT. I have had the great opportunity of performing the Marine Corps, Air Force, and even the Army PFT. I have also played evaluator. From beginning to end, the one event that causes more stress than any other is the run. I can recall early spring runners at the base track prepping for their upcoming test. Most of the time it was to unbearable to watch. These ladies and gentlemen weren’t striving to obtain a six-minute mile pace. They were trying to save their careers.
Whether you are running the 1.5, 2.0, or 3.0 mile, the following information will make you a much more efficient, faster, and injury free runner (If you consistently apply these techniques).
When working with struggling runners, the first thing I let them know is that the goal of the training session is technique and not conditioning.
So, let’s break this down into four sections.
- Ankle lift
- Arm swing
- The most important factor is posture. In a nutshell, it is having your skeletal structure in line with the pull of gravity. Think of it this way. You want create a straight vertical line by “connecting the dots”. Those dots would be your ankle bone, hip, and shoulder (you may even extend another dot located behind the ear). An easy way to check your alignment is to have a partner get behind you and press down on your shoulders. If your aligned, your partner will not be able to budge you (pushing down) even in a relaxed state. Your skeletal system is now doing the job it was meant to, not leaving it up to your muscles.
Also, have your partner check your waistband to see if it is level. Most likely you will have a slight tilt forward. This is common. Rotate your pelvis upward with your lower abdomen until your waistband is level. If you have no partner, then use a mirror.
Note: Consciously holding your posture together takes time and patience (sometimes a lot of patience). But there is a way to cheat the system. The reason for your misaligned posture is due to lack of Reflexive Strength. Basically, your body is not operating the way it was designed. It can be rebooted or reset (neurologically) with 5 Simple movement drills. They are referred to as the Original Strength “Big Five”. This will not only reset your posture, but will significantly improve your sit-ups, pushups, and pulls without doing a single rep. For more information visit https://originalstrength.net. Or just google Original Strength.
- Now that you are aligned vertically due to correct posture. Relax your ankles and allow your body to fall slightly forward while maintaining your posture. What happened? You literally started moving forward without the use of your legs. This is a big departure from what conventional running wisdom tells us. We are told we must reach out with our legs and push off with the balls of our feet (basically hitting the brakes and stepping on the gas at the same time). What if we relaxed our ankles, allowed a slight lean, and kept our lower legs relaxed and lifted our ankles behind us (think of a child riding a scooter). This would create a circular pattern with your ankles.
Keep in mind, your lean is your gas pedal. If you want to go faster-lean more by relaxing your ankles. If you want to slow down-lean less with your ankles.
Caution: You can lean too much. This will be signaled by tension in your lower legs (below the knee). With practice, you will find a comfortable “window of balance” for your intended speed. Practice. It will come.
- Ankle lift. The idea is to relax your legs and lift the foot off the deck instead of pushing with balls of the feet. While leaning forward with a solid posture, your knees will remain low while your ankles create a circular pattern behind you (Image a hampster running in a wheel). Your feet will actually land under or slightly behind you. This will significantly decrease impact to ankles, knees, hips, and spine. The bottom of the foot will contact the ground essentially flat. The way it was designed to. When the foot begins to lift off, lightly peel the two front points of the foot off at the same time. These points are located behind the big toe and behind the small toe.
Note: Footwear is beyond the scope of this article. Just remember- the closer the entire foot is to the ground, the better. Less is more. If you do decide to change footwear, do some research and use discretion. Use the principle of gradual progression- small incremental changes to avoid injury.
- Arm swing. Lastly, your arms will be swinging to the rear and your elbows will be bent at 90 degrees. Both hands will be relaxed (like holding a small bird in your hand) with thumbs facing up. Keep your shoulders relaxed. Imagine your arms swinging to the rear from the shoulder joint. Ears up-shoulders down. Your arms never cross your centerline. If you can imagine holding a volleyball in front of you, that’s about as far as they go.
As you run forward, all moving parts of the body move in the direction your heading. Any side to side or up and down movement will be inefficient, cause tension, and could lead to injury.
As a runner, your body is a whole but has two operating halves.
- The upper body (from the crown of the head to the bottom of the ribcage) remains straight ahead.
- The bottom half (directly below the ribcage-to the bottoms of the feet) rotates and remains absolutely relaxed.
Just imagine two moving parts creating a balanced whole.
So, there you have it. The basic breakdown of the run. You may ask yourself, how did this guy put this all together. Well. I didn’t. I learned it from Danny Dreyer. Former running coach, ultra-marathon runner, author and founder of the method described above-ChiRunning.
I have used this method for over 12 years and helped individuals survive their PFT. In some cases, shaving two minutes off of 1.5 mile runs focusing on technique alone.
Let that sink in.
No. It’s not magic. Its solid biomechanics and body awareness.
The human body does amazing things if you listen to it.
The easiest way to start is to apply the four sections above with special attention given to the posture section. Try to visualize each section and apply each point gradually to your run.
As far as running methods, there are “several ways to skin a cat”. I have found this method simple, direct and effective.
The book ChiRunning is available on Amazon or Chirunning.com.