SO YOU think you can run? Think again. Most people are risking injury because they have not learnt how to run properly, according to two of Melbourne's top running coaches.
They say the most likely to be injured while running are office workers whose glutes and hamstrings have become atrophied due to years of sitting behind desks.
Brian Martin and Mark Gorski, whose business is aptly named Running Technique, suggest people planning to participate in events such as the 14-kilometre Sunday Age City2Sea ensure they have adequately prepared their bodies for the challenge. They say even people who think they are running properly, very often aren't.
Mr Martin, 37, knows this from the bitter experience of being repeatedly injured, even though he was just a recreational runner.
''I was advised by many health professionals not to change my running technique because they thought the human body just naturally and magically arrives at the most efficient form of movement,'' he said. ''I can tell you this isn't the case. My body knew how to run - badly. I was doing everything 'right' but I was still getting injured.''
After researching good running technique, he realised that it all came down to having a strong backside. ''I found the good runners were activating their glutes and hamstrings a lot more than I was. Mine had gotten atrophied through years of sitting at a desk job. I woke up to the fact that I needed to get into strength training,'' he said.
That meant exercises like lunges, squats and bridging, coupled with occasionally running up short hills. Mr Martin discovered that once his glutes and hammies were firing properly, good running form naturally followed. And with it, a greatly reduced rate of injury.
It's precisely what Eliza Opie, 22, and her sister Alivia, 20, both of Carlton, need to learn. They have signed up to do the City2Sea but are novice runners.
As Mr Gorski put them through their paces at the Tan track in South Yarra, studying their form with the help of the video camera on his iPad, he was able to pass on some valuable tips.
''City2Sea is going to be very challenging but hopefully with a bit of hard work and a few training sessions we'll get there in the end,'' said Alivia.
''It was good to be able to visualise where you're going wrong so you can correct your technique and prevent injury,'' said Eliza. Mr Gorski, who narrowly missed making the 2000 Olympics team for the 1500 metres, said the girls' technique was ''reasonably sound although they've got issues to work on''.
''What Brian and I are trying to do in our business is make people as bulletproof as possible, so they can enjoy running more, and that's what it's all about,'' he said.
Rod Snow, of Deakin University's School Of Exercise, said there was a world of difference between the running techniques of elite and novice runners.
''Incorrect running technique leads to stress-related injury - the forces are going in the wrong direction and are being absorbed by joints that are not built to sustain them,'' he said.
Do's and don't's
Try to breathe through the nose as well as through the mouth. For easy running, aim for a 3-3 pattern: breathe in, take three steps, breathe out, take three steps.
Have an efficient, relaxed swing, but at the end of a race pump the arms harder to keep up running cadence. Keep the arm carriage at 90 degrees. Try not to move the elbow.
The best safeguard for the knees is to ensure your glute muscles are active. This stops twisting of the knees.
■Strength exercises that ‘‘switch on’’ the buttocks and hamstrings, such as lunges, bridging and squats.
■Break up running into walking segments in which you can do squats and lunges.
■Too much long slow running can reinforce bad habits. Break this up with some hill training, which is good for the glutes.
■Neglect strength exercises if you are beginning your regime.
■Increase your mileage too much from the previous week.
■Run at the same speed all the time - do some interval training.
For further details on The Sunday Age City2Sea presented by Westpac, visit thecity2sea.com.au