Running – Do you Over Use your Calf to Push Off?

Running training:
Are running techniques important? How do they relate to you? As a clinic that has a reputation for fast and lasting pain relief, we inevitably see a high flow of athletes in our offices. Over the years we have seen overwhelming numbers of runners among the athletes, from recreational to elite, from beginners to the seasoned, from sprinters to ultra-marathoners.
If we want to know some of the latest news in the running community or when the next major or minor race is – no need to google, just ask our next patient. Being a runner myself and being an expert in biomechanics of body movement, I have developed and taught runners my effective and optimal system of running techniques & body mechanics, and the results have been spectacular. Many running injuries can be easily prevented or corrected when you take the time to learn and develop your body movement the right way during your running.
But for runners who are not injured, do techniques play an important role to your running? Absolutely yes! Do you want to run with less effort and achieve better results? Do you want to get more out of your regular training? Do you want to be able to run for many years to come? If your answer is yes, then running techniques and mechanics are assets for you, in addition to your committed effort in persistent training.Some of the most common complaints among runners are problems with knees, shins, calves, and heels. Even without injury, these areas are frequently your sore spots during training.

One commonality of these injuries is that you rely too heavily on the lower end of your body’s kinematic chain to execute your steps. Think of your body movement as moving a soft chain or a whip– where you grip the chain is where your core is (your center of gravity), whereas the end of your limbs is the end of the chain that meets the ground force. The end of the chain does not have the massive power necessary to move your full body weight effectively. When you mistakenly rely heavily on it, it inevitably over-works and breaks down eventually- it may take a while if you are well conditioned, but sooner or later it happens no matter what.

Think of it– we all believe our calves are the major push-off force for us to run forward, but do you know that your Quads and Gluteal muscles are even better suited for that? The sheer size difference (quads + glutes vs. calves) and the scientifically measured forces generated by these muscles can easily prove the point.

The function of calves is to follow through what was initiated with your Quads and Gluts, and to complete the push off – the last part of the job. If you force it to take over the entire the job, something in that department will break down – knees, shins, calves or heels. Therefore you need to know how to turn on the Quads and Gluteal muscles more efficiently to lead the calf muscles. Let me give you one simple trick to help this: Move your hips and thighs more than legs. Use your hips and thighs to lead the leg movements, as if the legs and feet were end portion of a whip.

This little information will get you started on your journey. If you are interested in finding out more about running techniques and to practice with our feedback, please join our meet up group and come to practice and have fun with like-minded runners.

If you have questions or injuries, call our office (858) 481-1438 for a free checkup and personalized advice!

-Dr. Dawn X. Liu, Ph. D., D.C., L.Ac.

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