When it comes to your run, when would you say the worst part of the run occurs? For most people, it’s the homestretch. If you’re going on a five-mile run, odds are the last mile and a half is what’s going to give you the most trouble, and this makes sense because your body is tired from the beginning of the run.
But what if there was a way to help us push through the most difficult stretch of a run? According to a new study, there just might be.
Strengthening Your Ankles
Research published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise suggests that ankle strength holds the key to being able to finish off your run. For their study, researchers had 25 runners complete a 10K on a treadmill at close to race pace. They also analyzed certain body structures for stress and support throughout the 10K.
What they found was that, over the course of the run, some of the work that was initially done by the runners’ ankle was increasingly supported by the runners’ knees and hips. This change in loadbearing led to less efficient running form, which can help explain why we often need more oxygen to maintain a certain pace as we fatigue.
Achilles Tendon Also Plays A Role
Another factor that plays a role in our ability to finish off a run is our Achilles tendon. A similar study analyzed the stiffness of a person’s Achilles tendon before and after a run. Researchers found that runners whose Achilles tendons were much more flexible at the end of the run had worse form. Stiffer Achilles tendons were actually preferred, because stiff tendons mean that the muscles they are attached to don’t have to work as hard to generate force. As these tendons become less stiff, the nearby muscles have to do more of the work, and the energy cost of maintaining the same pace goes up.
So if you want to improve your running distance make make the end of your runs a little more bearable, work on strengthening your ankles and Achilles tendon. These two areas hold the key to helping keep your ideal running form while also making it easier to maintain a certain pace. If you need assistance developing a strengthening plan for either of these areas, do some searching online or reach out to Dr. Silverman. We’re happy to help!