Are you Fit to Run?

Strength, flexibility and balance help you run better and avoid injury. Take these six simple tests to assess yours

by Sam Murphy

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running, fitness, running checks, running flexibility

Can you run? Of course you can. It's a natural activity. But running well requires a blend of endurance, strength, coordination, flexibility and balance. And these are all attributes that a modern lifestyle does its best to compromise.

While our ancestors spent hours roaming the plains, we spend hours slumped in front of a computer or TV. It's little wonder our bodies aren't perfectly attuned. Nor that most of the time, we are unaware of the fact. Why does it matter? Because misuse - and disuse - of the musculoskeletal system won't enable you to perform to your full running potential and, worse still, may see you stepping ever closer to injury.

Check your competency

"It's all about physical competence," says running coach and movement specialist Kelvin Giles (, whose former guises include UK national athletics coach and director of track and field at the Australian Institute of Sport. "We need to think about function before force."

Jon Shelby from CrossFit (, a strength and conditioning system currently taking the UK by storm, agrees. "There's an issue with runners concentrating too much on running, rather than taking a more balanced approach to training," he says.

Run-proof your body

The first step in run-proofing your body is identifying your weaknesses. That's what led Giles to develop the Physical Competency Assessment, a wide-ranging battery of tests that identify possible weak links in the kinetic chain for people in all sports.

"The tests expose limitations in a variety of movements that are the underlying basics of good running mechanics," explains Giles, who has assessed a wide variety of sportspeople. In a study on rugby players, it was found that those who fared poorly in the assessment had a greater incidence of injury later on.

If you've been running for a while and have yet to succumb to injury, you may already have a high level of physical competency. But not necessarily, according to Giles. "The body is clever," he says.  "It will always find a way to compensate for poor movement patterns, which, in the long term, can cause degeneration and trauma in muscles and joints." In other words, you can run without good hip, knee and ankle alignment, but it's a risky game to play.

Chain reaction

Here's an example. For an efficient running stride, you need sufficient mobility in the ankle joint. Let's say your calves are as tight as guitar strings. Your body allows the knees to roll inwards to achieve the necessary range at the ankles. It's your body's way of cheating. Those inwardly rotating knees will create shearing forces within the joint, predisposing them to injury.

And they will also have an effect further up the body, because the hips, which are required to flex and extend the legs, are now trying to keep the pelvis stable to prevent it following the inward roll of the knees. But something has to facilitate that hip extension - and next in line comes the lumbar spine.

"A lumbar spine going into unnecessary extension under load is the last thing we want," says Giles. "The lumbar region is the foundation of the spinal column, providing stability, while the body parts above and below it provide the required mobility."

Everything is connected - from head to toe. "We should build physical competence from the ground up," says Giles. "That way, we can reduce injury risk and enhance our experience of running."

Test yourself

The following tests are taken from Kelvin Giles' Physical Competence Assessment Manual (£34.95, Movement Dynamics). A score of 4 or 5 in each test is desirable, while lower scores suggest the area needs work. The manual contains 55 tests and detailed instructions. It is available from

Picture credit: Peter Griffith/ Getty Images

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Discuss this article

Not too sure.  Running involves a symbiotic relationship between the organic machine composed of muscles, tendons and ligaments and the ethereal consciouness that desires the sense of fluid motion that running provides. It is an artform that involves the flow of locomotor muscles whilst the agonist, antagonist and synergistic actions of stabilising muscles anonymously endevour to provide the platform for the driving momentum  On this basis it is logical that tests such as those detailed in  Kelvin Giles' Physical Competence Assessment Manual which test the integrety of the machine should provide a reliable and valid tool in assessing ones fitness to run. However, the greyness of this mortal coil invariably means that some disparity and divergence exists between the art of running and the mechanistic prediction of ability and capacity such that the various assessment tools whilst indicative they fail to be predictive. Therefore runners should always consume the fall out of such analysis with a liberal garnish that allows the contextualisation and interpretation of the tools prediction with common sense and reflection upon what those annoying and noxious signals emenating from those tingling sense organs heralding the coming of compression hosiery.
Posted: 29/06/2011 at 13:58

You should meet Ricky Bennison.
Posted: 29/06/2011 at 14:16

Just what i was going to say....
Posted: 29/06/2011 at 21:56

Ooh not meeting Ricky Bennison...the other bit.!! (who's ricky bennison
Posted: 29/06/2011 at 21:58

Mighty Lexi wrote (see)
Ooh not meeting Ricky Bennison...the other bit.!! (who's ricky bennison

Mighty Lexi wrote (see)
Ooh not meeting Ricky Bennison...the other bit.!! (who's ricky bennison

Hits head against wall...
Posted: 29/06/2011 at 22:04

. wrote (see)
Hits head against wall...

Are you sure it didn't strike the wall?


Posted: 29/06/2011 at 22:43

Man, you need to get out more!
Posted: 30/06/2011 at 08:39

But who the heck is Ricky Bennison?

Any clues is the person a lad or ladette??? I mean is the person a man or woman?

Karen, GOOGLE it!

Posted: 01/07/2011 at 19:27

is he the prisoner who run half marathon every day in his cell, then he won a gold medal at the olympics for the marathon.  when interviewed later he sad "i was very happy to run with people again" lol.
Posted: 02/07/2011 at 21:15

eden bassy wrote (see)
is he the prisoner who run half marathon every day in his cell, then he won a gold medal at the olympics for the marathon.  when interviewed later he sad "i was very happy to run with people again" lol.

 The mind boggles!
Posted: 02/07/2011 at 22:12

This is Ricky


Posted: 02/07/2011 at 22:16

Saffy sweety pea wrote (see)

This is Ricky


RW gold. 
Posted: 02/07/2011 at 22:40

Oh yes
Posted: 02/07/2011 at 22:42

For anyone wanting skim highlights, I don't appear till page 7. 
Posted: 02/07/2011 at 22:54

Ricky Bennison wrote (see)
It occurs to that the term striking in regard to a runners landing foot insinuates a deliberate attempt to apply force to the ground. As the ambition of the landing foot is to land with minimal impact on the ground surely the term striking is a misnomer with negative potentialy harmful connotations especialy in regard to people injuring themselves by hitting the ground overly hard with there foot .

LOL it must been a full moon.

Saffy sweety pea wrote (see)

This is Ricky


 Turns to page seven

Posted: 02/07/2011 at 23:24

Damn it the bat has returned I'm off.
Posted: 02/07/2011 at 23:40

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