Two Technique Cues For Your Next Running Session

Athletes often ask me what perfect running form looks like. The truth is, that the aspirational ideal of there being one ideal running form is nonsense. We’re all so very different, with amazing individual variety in the anatomy of one athlete versus another.

When it comes to coaching athletes to develop their running form, either during late-stage injury rehab, or performance training, it’s imperative that we look only to implement changes that are appropriate given the individual’s unique collection of strengths, weaknesses, areas of restriction, mobility, stability and instability. Not to mention appropriate for their given sport. You wouldn’t necessarily coach a 14 hour Ironman athlete to run in the same way as a 1500m High School track star!

I’m also a firm believer that pushing an athlete to make big changes towards an unrealistic (perceived) perfect form is often enough to cause injury. There’s often a mechanical reason that many runners run in the way that they do.

Instead, we as coaches should often be looking to help the athlete benefit from a sum of marginal gains in running form. This involves improving individual elements of running form, with in the set of physical limits that the athlete’s body is working within.

The long-term goal can of course be to redefine these physical limits. Maybe through improving plantar flexor strength-endurance, glute activation, hip extension… the list goes on. But in the short term, any conscious work on changing the movement patterns that constitute running form needs to respect what the individual’s body currently can and cannot do.

While all athletes are different, with hugely varied needs, there are a handful of areas where almost all runners will stand to benefit. I like to look at these areas from a coaching point of view as the easy wins

Try the following cues to find some easy wins on your next run:

1 – Hold Your Hips High

We’ve all seen runners bent forwards at the waist, sticking their butt out. These guys and girls are the extreme end of the scale in terms of losing position around the pelvis. In reality, so many runners move with an excessively anterior tilted pelvis and somewhat of a sitting back posture as they run. This can be indicative of hight hip flexors, posterior chain / core weakness, or simply a habitual posture (usually a combination of each of these factors).

Rather than telling the runner to consciously bring their pelvis back to a neutral position (a rather abstract concept to try to feel on-the-run), or indeed telling them to run tall, which often results in excessive lumbar extension and feeling of ‘leaning backward’, I like to use this simple cue: Run with your hips high.

The idea being to get you holding your hips and pelvis up and forwards as you run, bringing your centre of mass closer to over the landing foot as you strike the ground.

Many runners will immediately feel a lighter, quicker contact-time and slightly increased cadence (stride frequency) as you reduce any tendency you may have had to over stride.

You may well find this cue help significantly if you’ve been struggling with Patellofemoral (anterior knee) Pain. In my experience, holding the hips high throughout the gait cycle seems to encourage runners to reduce mid-stance peak knee flexion angle, theoretically reducing loading of the Patellofemoral Joint.

Remember though, simple physics tells us that within a loading pattern such as running, we can’t just reduce force acting upon one structure in the body without increasing it elsewhere. As such reducing loading of the knee in this way, means increasing demands at the ankle – particularly the Plantar Flexor muscles (calf complex). Hold the hips too high and you’ll feel your contact-time getting very quick and running excessively high on your toes. Your calves will suffer at this point. Everything in moderation!

2 – Keep Your Upper Body Working

We’ve all seen sprinters competing or training. It’s obvious to see how the quick, powerful motion of the arms is integral to the ‘whole machine’ as the sprinter powers down the track. The speed of the arms helps to set and maintain leg speed. The powerful drive back with the elbow (shoulder extension) happens in-sync with the powerful extension of the opposite hip.

Most of us can appreciate this link between arm / upper body action, and leg action when looking at sprinters, or sprinting ourselves. But often the link is lost when running ‘easy’.

Don’t get me wrong – obviously I’m not suggesting running 9min/mile pace with Usain Bolt arms. That would be stupid!  Rather I want to challenge the common tendency to clamp the arms to the sides of the chest and therefore add nothing positive with the upper body throughout running gait.

Active use of the arms in running gait (in terms of size of arm swing and power) is dependent on speed. The faster you run, the bigger and more powerful the arm swing. The slower, the smaller and more relaxed.

BUT here’s the important bit, the arms never ‘switch off’. No matter how slow you run, there should always be at least a slight drive back with the elbow, with the subsequent forward motion being forward mostly elastic recoil. Just don’t allow your arms to drive forwards across the midline of your body.

The passive, rotational action of the upper body is also responsible for dampening and countering any excessive rotation from the lower body. Thus we don’t want to cut upper body rotation out completely, just keep it in check!

Basic Squat

The strength of the week we will talk about is the squat.  Within the fitness/health industry there has been a debate rather we should squat, then how low and what is the best form etc… If you do a quick Google search you will realize that the information you find can be confusing, but hopefully I can help you find a way that squats will help you in your daily life or athletic endeavors.

The Squat

In my opinion I believe the squat is an exercise that everyone from athletes to weekend warriors all the way down to the elderly. This is a full body exercise although it can be confused as just a movement that develops the quads and hamstrings. But to fully get establish a deep squat that requires an upright torso, neutral head, straight spine, stable pelvis, activated glutes, ankle flexibility and calf looseness. I know that is a handful but it is not as daunting as it seems to be.

Now when someone tries to achieve this without having the above requirements there are things that can go haywire. Due to the fact that our culture is predicated on sitting, laying or walking for long hours depending on your job, the squat is probably the intermediate between those two that is often forgotten by most of us as we get older.

Below is a picture of what I would consider to be good squat form (where the hands are and feet are negotiable for some folks). Lets let at this from the bottom up.

1. Her feet aren’t extremely pointed out or completely straight.

2. knees aren’t caving in or straight, they are flared out which takes pressure off the knee. The hips are below the knee as well.

3. torso therefore lumbar spine is straight. if the core is off then the spine

4. shoulders are active. not falling forward

Now that we have established a good squat, lets look at what can go wrong in a squat. I will focus on some of the more common issues I run into as a coach.

In this picture you can see common faults in the squat that I come across when coaching:

If you find yourself in any of these compromised positions stop doing the squats and especially with weight.

Fixing A Bad Squat

So lets learn how to squat. Squat starts from the action of the hips just as you would if you were setting in a chair.

Initiate with the hips and drop your butt back so the weight is on your heels.

Raise hands at the same time as you descend and keep upper back tight.

immediately spread knees out so they track over the toes.

keep head neutral at all times.

Reverse trend on the way up. Keep all muscles engaged so you don’t collapse on the way up. Below is how to do a basic squat.

Basic air squat in motion

Below is a great video on teaching yourself how to get into a proper squat if you do not have one. The wall forces you to keep your chest up.

There are others ways to achieve this depending on your issue. If your heels drive up try putting an 1-1.5 inch plate or board under your heels, if your knees cave in try using a light band around the knees and force them out.

So I know how to perform a squat now what!?!

If you have progressed well on form then I would consider trying a workout perhaps or adding weight with a barbell, dumbbells etc..  how much weight depends on your level of proficiency and goals. That might be for another post. But at the very least you could maybe put together some workouts using them or just to keep your hips, and knees healthy with assuming proper form. By having the new found strength and stability in your legs it will also help you run with better form as well because you will have better strength in both sides of your legs. If you have a question about frequency I would say that depend again on your goals. If you sit all day doing a 10-20 reps throughout your day will help keep your hip/flexors nice and loose.

Squats can be quite effective in any exercise program if used with proper form.

About me

My name is Emmitt Richards and I am a Level 1 certified Crossfit coach,Crossfit Endurance certification and Crossfit Mobility Seminar.  I have also taken a cooper institute weekend Personal training course. Crossfit endurance Certified.  In addition I would consider myself a person who tries to gain as much knowledge as I can from all areas of fitness, strength and general health.  Two years as a Crossfit coach has provided me with the opportunity to work with many different people of all fitness levels from long distance runners, cyclist, to your everyday individual trying to get in shape. I have fallen in love with movement over the past couple of years in all aspects of life from in and outside the gym.

My goals are to help make people strong while also maintaining an all around level of general physical capacity. Through Crossfit I have also turned my attention to injury prevention especially after my own injuries and my athletes coming to me for advice about their own. So if there was one motto to describe my philosophy to training/prehab to stay as injury free as possible would be “Work on, what you worked on.” Hopefully as part of the A-T-A team I can help with your fitness endeavors.

Top 10 Triathlon Injuries E-Book!

Hi everyone! I’m really excited to share this with you all. The ATA website has been growing and adding material for almost four years now (crazy, right?). During that time we added over 100 posts on specific soft tissue release techniques, mobilizations, stretching, and kinesiology taping. Why? So that each of those pieces would be well explained and thorough enough to truly teach you the techniques themselves. That was a must for me and this site’s goal of teaching you all of the things you can do with the tools available to you.

It’s because of that set up that I was able to put together 120+ pages of material for you in this new ebook. Here’s what you get:

  • The first chapter is all about our self treatment system and the why and how behind it! To bring you through the full healing spectrum, we use five steps. 1) Self muscle massage using a foam roller and tennis ball, 2) Mobilization techniques (joint and muscle), 3) Stretching, 4) Kinesiology taping, and 5) strengthening. Not only does this system help heal your injury by going after the route of the problem, but it also helps prevent it from coming back by restoring muscle strength and balance.
  • The second chapter dives right into the injuries themselves. For each, you’ll get a run down of the common causes and what to watch out for. Remember, the ATA site is not designed to keep you away from your healthcare team! We’re here to educate you on what’s serious and what it looks like in the early stages so that you can get after it and keep it from becoming a full blown sidelining injury. Here’s a run down of the injuries we’ll be talking about:
  1. Plantar Fasciitis
  2. Achilles Tendonitis
  3. Shin Splints (Tibial Stress Syndrome)
  4. Hamstring Strains
  5. Patellofemoral Syndrome (PFS)
  6. Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS)
  7. Hip Flexor Strains
  8. Low Back STrain
  9. Shoulder Impingement
  10. Neck Strains.
  • For each of the injuries listed above you will be given a full treatment plan using our five techniques. All of the links you’ll need to video’s and blog posts will all be included on one convenient treatment page.

  • For those of you who’ve been following along with our “Injury of the Week” blog series, it looks familiar right? Right! These sheets were developed thanks to all of your input and feedback. On each are all of the links you’ll need saved in one convenient place.
  • This is a LOT of information. Between reading the individual treatment posts, watching the videos, etc, the first treatment session can easily be in the neighborhood of 1-2 hours. That’s why we’ve included a few additional items to help beat that learning curve and streamline the process so you can hit the ground running. How do we do that? The first part will be through new injury specific video’s. Each will walk you through the techniques specific to the injury so that you can watch while you treat. In addition to the videos, you’ll also receive cheat sheets for each injury that will walk you through the soft tissue/hands on work. These sheets are easy to throw on your tablet or laptop and scroll through, making it easy to refer to them as you go. Here’s what one looks like.

Still not sure if this is right for you? Check out the first chapter for free RIGHT HERE.

Ready to buy? Get your ebook now for $10!


Thanks as always everyone! Every purchase helps cover the run costs of this website and allows to keep putting out new material!

Push Ups

In this post, we’re going to kick off a new series written by cross fit coach Emmitt Richards. The goal is to teach you strength training moves ranging from basic to advanced. As endurance athletes, strength training is crucial to maintain good muscle balance and core strength, as well as, to prevent injuries. Have any moves you’d like to learn more about? Drop us a comment!


Full Body Movement

There are many benefits to strength in your everyday life and can also help you with any
endurance endeavor you might want to pursue. There are many variations to the push up but we will focus on the basics in this article with some suggestions for more difficult variations if the basics aren’t challenging enough.

When performed with proper form the push up can be a great full body exercise that activates your chest, triceps, abs, glutes and quads. It is great for overall physical capabilities, helps you recruit your stabilizers in the back of your shoulder that can also counteract bad posture. Most of the time our body does not move in an isolated fashion and the push is no different the push up helps us achieve that building strength on a basic level.

So the benefits would include:

  • Upper body endurance/strength
  • More “bang for your buck” as a full body exercise.
  • Teaches you how to use your stabilizers in your upper back shoulder as well as your abs.
  • Can help improve posture.


The starting position of a push up is very important, we must start off with a strong base before we even begin to the movement.  This would mean making a straight line with your body, wrist over shoulders, tight core. As pictured below.

This is what it would look like correctly from the top view:

As opposed to the position posted below which can cause a ton of problems for your
shoulders, neck, and lower back. The shoulders go towards the ears, head drops, back
sags towards the floor.

This is what it would look like from a faulty position from the top view. Elbows are flared
out causing possible shoulder impingement.

Performing the actual movement

Now that we have established the right and wrong base. Start off with the right base stay tight in all areas and squeeze the shoulder blades back. It is important to keep your elbows no matter the width, towards your torso. Do not let them flare out. Descend down by corkscrewing your elbows in tight creating a solid position and push away from the floor once your chest hits the ground.


If a push up is difficult for you then try some modifications such as using bands, elevating your upper body so that way you are not doing it just from the floor like using the edge of your couch for instance might be helpful. If you are having trouble maintaining a solid “base” I would suggest Planks from either a push up position or old school planks with 5-8 sets of 10 second holds, then work your way up 20 seconds then upgrade 30 seconds for 3-5 sets.

Strength Training

Now let’s talk about some ways you can use the push up in your training. Here are some suggestions for building strength with this exercise from beginners to intermediates to advance trainees.


3-5 sets of 5 reps of really good form. Rest 1:30 between sets to allow for recovery and continued form across all sets. 1-2 times a week until becomes too easy you can decrease how much you rest and move on to more reps less sets, for example 3×8 or something along those lines.


8-12 pushups every 30 seconds for 5 minutes if you want more of a challenge stay in the push up plank position. For the remainder of the 30 seconds. All with near perfect form.


You can add weight to the movement, do dynamic versions such as clapping pushups. 100 pushups for time, rings, trx etc…. once you have reached this level the sky is the limit but I will give you one example. 4 min push up test. Record as many pushups as you can in 4 minutes.