This article was published on September 29th, 2014
For the average short distance runner, 10k or less, they are comfortable with completing their run, often without too many injuries. However, as a short distance runner begins to transition into longer distance, for example, moving into half or full marathon distance, running form becomes paramount. The longer the distance, the more imperfections in running form can cause injuries. The Running Room’s John Stanton offers runners these awesome 7 tips for amazing running form:
1. Stay Upright
Good running posture is simply good body posture. When the head, shoulders and hips are all lined up over the feet, you can move forward as a unit, with a minimum amount of effort.
2. Chest Forward
Many runners let their chest sag into a slouch. In such a position, the lungs can’t maximize their efficiency. Before starting your run, relax and take a deep breath, which moves the lungs into an efficient position. After you exhale, maintain the chest in this beneficial alignment. The most efficient way to run is to have your head, neck and shoulders erect. When you run leaning forward, you’re always fighting gravity.
3. Hips Forward
One of the most common errors is letting the hips shift back and the butt stick out behind you. Taking a deep breath often pulls the hips forward and into an alignment that allows for easier running.
4. The Foot Plant
There is a difference between what should happen and what you may be able to control. First, let your training buddies at the Running Room fit you with shoes that are right for you, since modern training shoes are designed to accommodate biomechanically different feet. Then, just start running! Your personal stride is the result of your shape, your physique and the strength and balance of your muscles below your waist. Please don’t try to change your foot plant as you train: you will not be running naturally and you are likely to cause more problems than you solve. Changes to your gait only happen as a result of longer-term changes elsewhere. As you gain fitness and strength, you may notice that many irregularities resolve themselves. If you do have a problem that continues to affect your activity, you may have to seek the advice of a therapist or coach to address your particular situation.
Arm position can vary widely from one runner to the next. In general, the arms should swing naturally and loosely from the shoulders. Staying relaxed will prevent the arms from being carried too high, which will expend more energy than needed. Your hands should never cross the centre of your chest.
6. Stride Length
As a coach, my experience has shown that as runners get faster, their stride length shortens. Leg turnover rate, or the cadence of the runner’s legs, is the key to faster and more efficient running. Staying light on your feet with a more rapid leg turnover rate will keep many of the aches, pains and injuries away.
Sprinters have a high knee lift. Anyone running more than a mile needs to minimize knee lift. If your knees go too high, you are overusing the quadriceps muscles on the front of the thigh. This overstriding leaves the runner with sore quadriceps at the end of the run. Keep your leg turnover light and rapid—more of a shuffle than a sprinter’s stride.
Stay relaxed with a low, short stride. This will prevent tightness in the shin, behind the knee or in the back of the thigh. Kicking too far forward tightens up the lower leg and hamstrings.
Do short accelerations while staying light on your feet. Keep your foot strike quieter with each stride, keeping your foot close to the ground to prevent any excessive bouncing.
7. Head and Neck
Your torso will normally do what your head is doing. If you are dropping your head down, your torso will probably follow and lean too far forward. Keep the neck and shoulders relaxed. Try not to hunch your shoulders, which will cause undue fatigue to that area. Your eyes should be looking about 20 to 30 metres ahead of you.