The outset of any new training program there are two topics that should be addressed in order for you to maximize the first few weeks of training load: breathing & form. Perhaps the most important area to focus on at the outset is breathing. What is proper technique?
The most important factor with breathing is RHYTHM: keeping a consistent rate of inhalation & exhalation, regardless of speed. When you are running comfortably, your breath comes in a smooth, regulated flow & you should be able to carry on a conversation. As the pace quickens or you begin to tire, you will notice that your breathing begins to come fast & furious. Usually, when your breathing quickens, your attention is diverted to the burning muscles & straining limbs attempting to keep up with the greater effort. This is the best time to focus your attention to your breath & attempt to control the way the air comes in & out of your nose & mouth. Do not worry about the speed at which you breathe, rather attempt to control the rhythm. The lungs fill & empty at the behest of the diaphragm. If you are able control your diaphragm, you will control the rhythm of your breathing. You will know that your diaphragm is in control when your breathing rhythm is constant for more than 3-5 minutes. If you are unable to control the rhythm then you absolutely must slow down if you wish to sustain that pace & if your diaphragm is out of control it will only be a matter of time before you develop what is commonly called a side-stitch, which is a stabbing pain in your side. You can alleviate this symptom of improper breathing by slowing down or walking & placing your hands over your head & taking deep, sustained breaths in sets of 10 until the pain has subsided. There is a natural pattern of breathing that is different for every runner, but in order to breathe effectively you must sustain a smooth, rhythmic flow.
Another major concern at the outset of a training program is proper form. Just as the natural pattern of breathing is unique to every individual, the basic biomechanical tendencies of each person will be unique. Initially it is important to just run in a manner that feels comfortable. Most people get into trouble when they try to run with what they consider ideal form & thus disturb their natural flow. Rather than look around at another person’s form, attempt to dial in on what feels good to you. After a few weeks you can begin to work on a few basic principals that will help fine tune your particular style.
These principals can be divided into 3 distinct areas: the lower leg (below the knees), the core (from your upper legs to your ribcage) & arm swing (head, shoulders, arms & hands.) The most important area of concern, in terms of injury, is the lower leg. Wherever the feet go the rest of the body will follow. The feet should be pointing straight ahead, not toeing in or toeing out. By pointing the feet straight down the road your knees & hips remain in alignment. You should initially practice working on keeping your feet straight ahead when you are walking or standing, paying particular attention to the mild strain that this causes to your hip & butt muscles. As the tension reduces on these areas as you are walking, then you can transition to focusing on your feet pointing straight ahead while you run. The reason for this slow transition is to minimize the chance of injury from trying to change your basic technique overnight. Once the feet are pointing straight down the road the likelihood of sustaining a knee, hip lower back injury is significantly reduced.
You should also focus on the core of your body, which will help in general strength & stability. Eastern meditation & fighting traditions emphasize a strong core as both the foundation of power & balance. This is attained through the very basic methods of sit-ups, crunches, back extensions, flutter kicks, leg extension & the like. You need to develop a regimen that works for you & incorporate it into your weekly schedule. We will be providing a basic, recommended strength training program early in this marathon program.
The other basic area you should focus on in terms of form is your arm swing. The best way to visualize proper arm swing is to imagine a line drawn directly up from your belly button through your eyes. This is your center & we want all limbs to remain on their side of the line. Your shoulders should always point straight ahead & not rotate across your center. The arms ideally should track directly forward & back with the elbows tight against the torso. If your elbows point out to the side then you can guarantee that your arms will swing across your center as you begin to fatigue. We want to limit this if not eliminate it altogether. Your hands should be held loosely in a fist, with plenty of space between the fingers & the palm. This will increase your level of relaxation. Do not clench your fists. These basic principals of form should be implemented slowly & only after you have grown comfortable with your natural biomechanics.