Let’s talk about proper running form. Most people assume that running is a natural form of exercise that our body knows how to do automatically.
However, that is not true!
Many of us don’t practice proper running form when we lace up and head out. We may land our feet improperly, hunch our shoulders, or rotate our hips.
As a result, we get injured and are inefficient.
The good news is that you can improve your running form so that you can make the most out of every run.
You’ll stay injury-free and improve your running speed!
Here’s the essential how-to guide for proper running form in 7 steps; we start at the head and finish at the feet!
- Related: The 26 Golden Rules of Running
1. Eyes Up and Chin Down
The first thing to do when running is to get your head right!
This means adjusting your gaze so that you aren’t looking at your feet or keeping your gaze too high.
You should try to look directly ahead or at the ground about 10 – 20 feet ahead of you, especially when running uphill.
This will keep you from looking up and getting discouraged. It also tricks your mind into thinking you are on a flat surface!
Keeping your gaze ahead also helps your chin stay in a neutral position.
Many runners tend to raise their chin when they’re tired, which puts extra strain on their necks and makes breathing harder!
They also tend to lead with their necks, which is not an efficient use of energy.
Instead, try to keep your ears in line with your shoulders and your chin down. You’ll breathe easier and avoid unnecessary neck pain.
2. Shoulders Down and Back
Whenever we exercise, it’s very easy to tighten our shoulders and hunch them up.
It’s a common reaction to stress as well as a comfortable position. After all, our body is used to hunching over most of the day!
However, when we run, we want our shoulders to be down and back, opening our chest so we can take big, deep breaths.
Throughout your run, check in and see how your shoulders feel. Take the time to shrug them up and out and keep them loose.
Carrying extra tension in this area will tire you out very quickly and can cause a headache after running!
related: lower back pain when running?
3. Elbows at Right Angles with Relaxed Hands
The next step to good running form is keeping your arms and hands in line.
Your arms shouldn’t cross the centre of your body, with your elbows pointing out.
Instead, keep them bent at a 90-degree angle and hold them in a line. You don’t need to pump your arms, just let them naturally propel you along. Your hands should reach your chest or sternum height and then swing back towards your hips. It’s also important not to let your arms push out farther than your legs, so try to keep your front foot in line with the hand that is forward.
Your hands shouldn’t be balled into a fist either. This is an automatic reaction to stress, and we tend to grip our hands as we become tired. Instead, we should imagine that we are holding a piece of paper or a potato chip to keep our hands loose and save energy.
4. Straighten your Spine and Tighten Your Core
Keeping your spine straight and your core tight is key to proper running form!
This is an incredibly powerful area of your body, and it’s what gives you the strength to push through a race.
A tall spine will help you breathe easily and use energy more efficiently. It also enables you to keep your core tight and secure.
Keeping your abdominals in-check will support your spine and better absorb the energy when your foot strikes the ground.
- Related: Is Running Bad For Your Knees?
5. Tilt Your Hips
While you want your back and core tall and straight with your neck and shoulders in line, you do want to lean forward a little bit when you run!
The secret is to hinge forward with your hips.
You don’t need to tilt forward too much, but keeping your torso slightly bent forward will give you a bit of momentum that will propel you forward.
It’s an efficient use of energy that won’t result in sore necks, shoulders, and lower backs! It also means that your hips and glutes will be doing a lot of the work, saving your legs from getting tired.
6. Bend Your Knees Slightly and Keep Your Legs Under You
Many runners tend to pick their knees up high and bend them at a 90-degree angle. This isn’t the most efficient use of energy!
You don’t need to bend your knee that much to lift your foot off the ground and strike.
Instead, bend your knee while keeping it lower to the ground so that your hips don’t have to waste energy picking up your entire leg.
Then, when you bring your foot down, try to keep your shin perpendicular to the ground with every step. You also want to make sure that your knee stays in line with your foot so that you won’t get injured.
7. Strike on the Ball of your Foot
We’ve saved the best for last!
Every runner has been told about the importance of the proper foot strike.
Most of us know it can make the difference between a successful runner and an injured one. However, it’s important to keep in mind that everyone’s body is different. You may find that it is nearly impossible to land on the ball of your foot.
Do your best to land as close to the ball of your foot as possible. It is the best place to land because it won’t lead to injuries and is energy efficient.
Try to keep your feet underneath you and don’t overstride. This leads to heel strikes.
However, if you don’t pick your feet up far enough off of the ground, you’ll land on your toes. It’s a delicate balance that can take lots of practice!
However, if you follow the guidelines listed above, a lot of these changes will naturally improve your gait and your foot strike.
Proper Running Form = Sustainable Running
Using proper form when you run is the best way to prevent injuries and ensure that you are using your energy efficiently.
If you find that you can’t go as fast as you would like or tire out very quickly, then take a step back and check out your form.
Work on your running form over a period of a few weeks, for example when doing a running 3 miles a day challenge, and after about a month you’ll have made serious improvements.
You’ll probably find that making a few adjustments will make a big difference in your run!
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