Hitting the pavement for a run is so much more than grabbing your sneakers and moving your body. Whether you're a seasoned runner or training for your first 10K, knowing and practicing proper running form is key when it comes to improving efficiency and being kinder to your body.
"By having proper form a runner will be able to run faster, longer and with a decreased risk of injury," Alexandra Weissner, a certified running coach and co-founder, bRUNch Running, tells Organic Authority. "By focusing on posture, turnover and arm carriage, one will see the greatest benefits."
Need help with perfecting your form? Here's what you need to know how to carry yourself from head to toe.
It's All in the Hips
While your tendency might be to keep a fairly straight posture while running, Weissner says you actually want to run with a slight lean forward through the hips without tilting the pelvis.
"This gives you the power you need to climb a hill and fast on the flats," she says. If a runner is leaning over too much, they will have more issues breathing as the lungs and diaphragm are compressed. This also limits the range of motion of the arms and tightens up the shoulders. Additionally, leaning back or being too upright is only less efficient but will also put you at risk of injuring your hamstrings.
Another thing to remember? Ensure your head is up, and your eyes are looking forward towards your destination.
"You want to make sure you are not looking down at your chest but five to fifteen feet in front of you," says Weissner. "If you are hunching forward with your chin tucked it will be harder to breathe, your hips will drop back and you will not be able to use your arms as a lever.
And don't forget to breathe!
"In through your nose, out through your mouth," says Weissner. It's a technique which helps to warm the air as it enters your body, and is also key for running in cold temperatures. While it sounds simple enough, she recommends visualizing your breath if you're having difficulty. "Think fresh air and energy in. Pause. Stress and negativity out."
Your Arms Matter
Sure, your legs are doing pretty much all of the work, but that doesn't mean your arms don't affect your stride.
Weissner says you should keep your arms at 90-degrees with your hands brushing the top of your bottom on the arm swing. "Almost like you were going to put your hand in your back pocket when wearing a pair of jeans," she says. "Hands are loosely cupped. Try not to make a fist or have your thumb sticking up like you're trying to hitch a ride."
Swinging your arms side-to-side or making a fist causes you to waste energy, says Weissner. "It takes more energy to make a fist than to lightly cup your hand. We also see runners with their hands open, which will cause more resistance as you are running."
Another tip? The quicker your hands and arms move, the faster your legs are going to want to move as well. And if that doesn't make you want to keep your arms in check, Weissner says that proper arm position will also help to lessen upper back pain.
Watch Your Feet
When it comes to actually moving your legs, Weissner says your knees should be driving forward and straight to a comfortable height while staying below your hips ("no high knees while running").
As your foot hits the ground, it should land heel first and then roll forward towards your toes creating energy to push yourself off. "At this time you are engaging your calf, so you want to make sure to build strength there to help increase your speed."
Which is why strength training is a crucial part of your running program, especially if you're looking to improve your power and endurance.
Of course, not all bodies are created the same, as Weissner points out, and foot strike and stride all start with the shoe. "Shoes have the ability to aid or support your running."
She recommends going into your local running specialty store for a treadmill analysis to see how your foot lands and what type of runner you are.
"This way you are able to get a shoe that will assist you in reaching your running goals. Some individuals will be able to run in a neutral shoe, while others need more stability."
When it comes to perfecting your running form, you might want to consider recording your sessions to playback later or working with a certified running coach like Weissner.
With a little practice and attention, you'll be breaking your personal best records in no time.
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