By Mike Aiello – Lionheart Fitness

Whether you’re training or racing, the start is the most important part of your run. Several kinesthetic aspects must be paid attention to as you take your first stride. Always remember, that your first stride will set the standard for stride and proper foot placement throughout the run.  One of the big problems I see regularly when coaching runners is that they run with the engine behind them. What I mean by this is simple, and something that you might have done or have seen others do. Often runners who start poorly, will begin to run with their heels behind their hips keeping their knees lower to the ground. Almost as if they were doing butt kicks in P.E. Class. This is a serious issue, as the stride most likely will remain far too short. Once the runner’s momentum begins to carry them, it is very difficult to correct stride length appropriately. The next common issue is the position of the pelvis. Often times runners who were running with their heels behind them will also have a slight lean of their shoulders forward, keeping their hips too far behind them and slows proper acceleration. This is a direct result of the gate being too short and proper knee placement is happening from the first stride.

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Where does the power come from then when the runner starts poorly… what powers them forward? A runner with the poor gait is running with only the quadriceps and IT bands to power them forward – systematically taking the hamstring and glute out of the equation. Thus you are only using a portion of your body’s full muscular potential.

The perfect start:
As the runner begins they should stand with their most powerful leg behind them (this can be determined by standing tall heels together and have a friend push you forward the leg that comes out in front is the most powerful leg). Begin in an A-frame stance with your power leg behind, you and opposite leg out front. Your hips should be square with your spine in a neutral position and your shoulders relaxed and even with the hips. This will provide the most powerful first step for the athlete.
As the power leg swings out in front the knee and the shinbone should both be at about a 45° angle with the toes cocked slightly up towards the runner’s nose. This will provide for the perfect amount of power which equals acceleration or velocity. It also will allow your foot to plant properly beneath you so that the foot will remain on the ground less time, thus you will be faster. Having proper knee placement forward and proper shin angle will assure more speed. Keeping this body position will allow you to use 360° of your core strength – engaging the low abdominal, quadriceps, hamstring, I.T. band, glutes and low back, which will propel the athlete quickly forward. In addition proper knee shin and foot placement will force the athlete’s hips into a strong safe position for maximum speed and a stronger more comfortable run.

As you train for your next race, I hope that this information will help as you evaluate your gait and core strength. If you would like an individual gait analysis or to incorporate core training into your workouts, please contact me directly at