Swing phase, stretch reflex, loading rate, and stance time.
Have any idea about any of these terms? Well, these are all scientific terms that might appear when you do a quick search online for "proper running form". Sure, you might get lost trying to make sense of them but have no fear.
If you're not interested in the basic science behind good running form, you probably just want to know how to run properly.
Improving your running form will not only dramatically reduce your chances of suffering overuse injuries, but it'll also make running more enjoyable and even faster. And the best part is that you can do it right now.
Rather than focus on the overwhelming and boring technicalities of how to run efficiently, follow these simple, actionable, and easy-to-implement running tips.
No matter the effort you put into bettering your running form, your ability to work your gluteal muscles and core strength is a serious impediment to your performance and ability to avoid injuries.
Your core and glutes are vital muscle groups that help provide stability around the lower trunk, hips, and pelvis.
Imbalances and weaknesses around these areas may directly lead to back, hip, and knee injuries, as well as problems related to running on the lower leg.
Add regular stability and strength exercises to your weekly schedule to improve your strength and stability. This will be highly beneficial to your running in the long run, in terms of both improved performance and injury prevention.
Look about 6 meters ahead of you. This will not only relax your neck muscles by keeping your head at the right angle, but it'll also help you avoid falling over speed bumps (yes, it happens!).
Gazing up the sky or looking straight down causes neck muscle stress and tension, resulting in stiffness after long runs. That's not a proper way to run, so avoid it at all costs.
The foot strike is the hardest running motion to change.
Some runners land forcefully on their heels, wasting energy and causing severe stress on the lower back and up the leg. Others land heavily on their toes, putting undue pressure on their lower leg muscles and causing an inefficient bounce.
You aim should be to land on the middle of your foot. This way, you'll naturally absorb the shock and then have a strong start from your toes. Consider landing lightly if you're either a forefoot runner or heel striker.
Ensure your toes are facing the direction you're going. Don't run with the feet pointed out or in as it could cause running injuries.
You may need to practice keeping your feet pointed straight if that's not your natural running style. Try running this way for short distances and then gradually increase the distance or time.
You'll eventually get used to running with the feet pointed straight ahead and it'll feel more natural.
One of the secrets to achieving good, efficient running form is your running posture. The posture you take at your office, on the sofa, or in the car has a significant impact on how you run.
Most people spend the better part of their day sitting down, hips flexed, and shoulders rounded forward. If you take this posture, you'll have weak and underactive glutes, as well as short and tight hip-flexors.
This becomes a problem when you try to run, with your body needing to keep adequate hip extension and an erect posture. Instead, you'll run in a semi-flexed position--especially at the hips.
Many beginner runners tend to take longer strides. This causes heel-smashing--a heavy foot strike that sends excessive shock through the leg. For this reason, you should avoid over-striding and reaching out with your foot to take longer strides.
But heel-smashing isn't always bad. The truth of the matter is that it really doesn't matter where you land on your foot with each step.
In fact, there are very successful heel-, mid-, or fore-strikers! The most important thing is not what part of the foot lands, but actually where the foot lands with respect to the rest of the body.
Your foot should ideally touch the ground directly below your body, instead of farther in front of it. One good way to try this out is to put your foot down below your hips. Once there is a straight line between your hips and where your foot touches the ground, your leg is not stretched in front of the body.
This change in technique reduces the impact on your legs and lowers your risk of injury by producing a more fluid, powerful stride.
How many steps do you take with both feet per minute? Whatever your number, that's what's known as cadence. According to Jack Daniels, a legendary running coach, the magic figure for perfect cadence is 180 steps a minute. This was the average number for most elite athletes at the 1984 Olympics.
But this number is not cast in stone--it's simply a general rule of thumb. When running at a simple, comfortable pace, you should take 170 steps per minute or more.
Going for easy runs means that you'll reduce the impact on your legs, reduce your risk of injury, and even increase your running efficiency.
This is how: with a faster, shorter stride, you're landing less heavily and avoiding the stress that comes with longer, heavier strides. Basically, you'll get injured less often and maybe even become faster.
The next time you have a simple run, count the number of steps your foot makes per minute and then double it to know your cadence. If the cadence is below 170, try to increase it gradually until it hits 170 or more.
Keep your hands by your waist, around where they could lightly brush your hip. Bend your arms at an angle of 90 degrees. Some beginners tend to keep their hands up by the chest, particularly as they tire. You can actually tire even more by doing so, and you'll begin to feel tension and tightness in your neck and shoulders.
As you run, make sure your hands and arms are relaxed as much as possible. You can cup your hands gently as if you're holding an egg. Never clench your fists as it may cause tightness in your neck, shoulders, and arms.
You should swing your arms backward and forward from the shoulder joint, not the elbow joint. Your arm should act as a pendulum, swinging backward and forward at your shoulder. Move your elbow back and forth. Your hand should almost be grazing your hip while your arm swings forward.
Don't swing your arms side to side. If your arms are across your chest, you'll likely slouch. This means you'll not breathe efficiently, which can also cause abdominal cramps or side stitches.
Picture a vertical line dividing your body into two equal parts--your hands shouldn't cross it.
Since you move forward in a straight line, running is linear. While many of the basic movements at individual parts and joints need rotation to work properly, you shouldn't be rotating your body too much from one side to the other.
Rotating your body too much defeats the purpose of making progress forward. In fact, it requires energy to control and stabilize--a significant inefficiency!
In the same manner, you should direct your energy to travel forwards instead of upwards. A slow cadence rate and thus over-stride often causes excessive "bounce" or upward displacement within the stride.
For example, if you're running a marathon, an extra inch of upward displacement (bounce) with each step will be equal to an extra mile wasted upwards across the distance. That's a huge waste of effort.
Remember that stride length determines the actual figures--but you get the drift!
When running, your breathing rhythm should match the overall rhythm your whole body is working towards. The ratio with which you breathe in and out will likely vary while your exercise intensity varies.
Breathing properly is vitally important to your running form. Therefore, you should practice proper breathing so you can keep your composure on the day of your race.
Deep "stomach" or abdominal breathing is perfect for running. To practice abdominal breathing, lie on your back. Place a book on your belly and slowly inhale. Watch the book go up and then slowly exhale to lower the book.
Some runners might benefit from hiring a running coach who's on form. Others will need mobility work and strength exercises when things are a bit flat. There's never a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to improving running form.
However, going back to the basics is usually a great place to begin. Whether you're looking to get more efficient or faster or you're simply taking up running, good form will keep you healthy and help you achieve your goals injury-free.
Be sure to browse through our blog for more tips on how to run faster and more efficiently.
As runners, we’re lucky. We don’t require expensive equipment or special sports pitches to practice our favorite form of exercise. Plus, it’s free!
What we do appreciate are a few things: a mild climate, plentiful routes, tracks and trails, a supportive local community of runners and perhaps some company.
Ever wondered where in the U.S offer these wonderful qualities and are the best cities for runners? Well, now you do.