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Learn to Run Smarter


From time to time, we invite local (to us in Dorset) sports professionals to share some top tips, advice and services that might be of benefit to you, the White Star Running Family. Here, Tracy Cook (Tracy Cook Sports Therapy) tells us a bit about her RUN SMARTER programme.


RUN SMARTER is a carefully designed programme to deliver to you all the key components that enable ‘good running form’ so your body can re-learn how to run faster and continue to enjoy your running well into the future safely, with the ultimate goal of reducing the risk of injury.

SMART(T)ER stands for:

Self-care (injury prevention)

Mechanics (technique)

Awareness (different ways and what the focus areas are conditioning the body before incorporating strength)

Readiness (neuromuscular activation)

Terrain (effects on running mechanics)

Training management (frequency, intensity, duration and its overall impact on the muscles and joints – accumulation)

Efficiency and economy (duration, intensity and technique, and their impact on holding ‘good form’)

Race preparation (taper, how to fuel for different distances)

And this is the essence of the sessions that I run.

The key benefits of this system are:

  • Reduce the risk of injury and promote longevity by discovering more about how the body (muscular, & nervous systems) responds to different types of training stresses/forces during training and racing.
  • Understand how to spot the signs of potential injury and when to seek advice
  • Receive feedback about exercise and technique execution
  • Understand the reasons why not to push through niggles over a sustained period of time and what happens if you do
  • Improve body awareness and promote athlete self-care – what does this entail?
  • Improve running technique to optimise good form and reduce the risk of injury
  • Improve muscular endurance, speed, strength and power to optimise performance
  • Fuelling for training and racing
  • Learn strategies to manage training and racing
  • Weekly sessions to increase muscle memory

Why do we need to RUN SMARTER?

There are many factors that influence the ability to run well. The majority of people’s training tends to focus on the development of the cardiovascular system, often at the expense of other important aspects that if not developed tend to cause breakdown in a runner as they try to go longer and/or faster.

Running well is not solely reliant on a strong and well-trained cardiovascular system, but rather what holds you together over a duration of time holding optimal technique during execution of each of the running phases to allow your body to absorb the stress and load that running bares on the joints and muscles safely. Current lifestyles for most are actually detrimental to leading an active lifestyle, particularly running, since we spend much of the day inactive. Running well is so dependent on ‘holding good form’, which is difficult to achieve if the muscles are unable to respond in the correct ways to avoid injury onset.

Re-educate the body on the ‘what’, ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘when’ to be able to activate the muscles efficiently, improve running technique to hold good form and run faster.

These sessions cater for all abilities regardless of experience and ability. The sessions look at the behind the scenes of what makes up a good runner.

Sessions are 60 mins long.

Session format:

Full body warm-up

Neuromuscular activation





The behind-the-scenes all-over body conditioning that both your body and mind need in order for you to progress in your sport while addressing the essential movement patterns to strengthen the muscles, tendons and ligaments so that they can cope with the demands of stress/load placed upon them. 

These sessions are designed to strengthen the major muscle groups, while at the same time reducing the risk of common injuries brought about by high volume, frequency and/or intensity.

A deeper insight

The programme is designed to develop and build a deeper understanding about the ‘what, why and how’ of learning movement routines and exercises to develop muscular strength and endurance and, more importantly, to build and imprint muscle memory and improve proprioception, both essential components allowing automatic recall of how to perform correct technique without having to think about it. 

How will this happen? Well once the brain starts to process and understand the ‘what’ and the ‘why’, self-awareness of the relative positioning of all the body parts involved in swimming starts to develop. Building positive muscle memory requires the body to learn (or re-learn) how to activate the right muscles, with the right movements, at the right time (neuromuscular activation), to position, hold or move body parts into position, whilst maintaining awareness of their relative position in relation to the other moving and stationary parts (proprioception).

Neuro-muscular activation is a focus on key functional movements that retrain the muscles, brain and joints to communicate with each other improving movement, strength, balance and function.

Proprioception plays an important role in the planning of precise and coordinated movements, body awareness, in maintaining balance and controlling body posture. Proprioception is a continuous feedback loop between the sensory receptors found in your skin, muscles, joints and nervous system. During movement, the brain senses the effort, force, and weight of the actions and positions, responding accordingly. Essentially, the sensory receptors relay information to the brain when a body part is moving, so it learns where a body part is relative to the rest of the body. 

Both neuro-muscular activation and proprioception are fundamental in the early stages of learning, as they pave the way to developing a solid base upon which to build.

Through repetition and focused performance of functional movements and exercises, the sessions will enable you to restore muscle memory and build and refine it, enhancing your running technique beyond its current level.

There is so much to be gained from these focused sessions: learning and improvement rate can be increased by removing the focus away from training the hear and lungs and placing emphasis on honing in efficient movement patterns through the isolation and breakdown of techniques, repetition and practice, all whilst receiving constructive feedback, increasing improvement and refinement opportunities. 

While these are very important, having the opportunity to learn and understand more about running mechanics, and to train the muscles, tendons and joints to move in the right way, improving neuromuscular, proprioception and muscle memory, and in a much more conducive setting, will give your body not only the physiological adaptations but also the psychological adaptations. Allowing you to be more ready than ever to negotiate and transfer all your skills to any running environment.

Find out more at: Tracy is also running some FREE taster sessions on Fridays 6:30-7:30pm, so do contact her to find out more or follow her on Facebook for session information. 

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