Having the proper form when running is essential in your performance. It can help you run faster with less stress on the body, and reduces the risk of injury.
LOOK FORWARD- The way you hold your head is key to your overall posture. Make sure you are looking straight ahead as this will straighten your neck, and back. Don’t look down at your feet, as this can make your posture cause pain in your neck and lower back. Looking ahead also help prevent you from falling being that you can see whats ahead. Luckily, I have super straight posture, because my body got used to being in a straight position.
SHOULDERS- KEEP YOUR SHOULDERS RELAXED! I often see runners with their shoulders above their ears…keep them low, and relaxed.
ARMS- Your hands control the tension in your upper body, while your arm swing works in conjunction with your leg stride to drive you forward. Your arms should swing mostly forward and back, not across your body,between waist and lower-chest level. Your elbows should be bent at about a 90-degree angle. Swing with your shoulder joint, not your elbow. When you feel your fists getting tight or your forearms tensing, drop your arms to your sides and shake them out for a few seconds to release the tension. Imagine holding an egg inside your hand trying not to squeeze too much so the egg doesn’t crack. Me….I have a problem doing this, I try to swing my arms forward an not across my body but it feels super uncomfortable to swing straight. Since I have a stronger shoulder than the other, one arm swings straight while my left arm crosses my body, weird, yes I know. But it works for me!!! When I feel tired my shoulders tend to go up and my cross body arm swing is so obvious I look like I am dancing salsa rather than running. At this point I stop and stretch my arms, back, and shoulders.
POSTURE- Keep your head up, your back straight, and shoulders level. Keep your shoulders under your ears and maintain a neutral pelvis. Make sure you’re not leaning forward or back at your waist, which some runners do as they get fatigued. Check your posture once in a while. When you’re tired at the end of your run, it’s common to slump over a little, which can lead to neck, shoulder, and lower-back pain. When you feel yourself slouching, poke your chest out. Its beneficial to have a very very slight lean forward. It’s just before the point where you feel you will fall forward. You can test it by standing flat on your feet and lean forward until you lose your balance. It is a extremely minor lean forward. Give it a shot!
HIPS- With your torso and back comfortably upright and straight, your hips naturally fall into proper alignment. Your hips are your center of gravity, so they’re key to good running posture. If you allow your core to hunch over or lean too far forward during a run, your pelvis will tilt forward too, which can put pressure on your lower back and throw the rest of your lower body off. When trying to figure out the position of your hips, think of your pelvis as a container filled with water, then try not to spill the water by tilting it. This one is hard for me as I suffer from hip flexor pain because from the waist down I am not properly aligned, but I focus on the stretching prior to my run to ease the work my hips will do.
STRIDE- When running with the proper stride length, your feet should land directly underneath your body. As your foot hits the ground, your knee should be slightly flexed so that it can bend naturally. If your lower leg (below the knee) extends out in front of your body, your stride is too long. DON’T BE A TOE RUNNER OR A HEEL-STRIKER!!!! If you land on your toes, your calves will get tight or fatigue quickly and you may develop shin pain. Landing on your heels means you have overstride, which wastes energy and may cause injury. Try to land on the middle of your foot, and then roll through to the front of your toes. Sprinters need to lift their knees high to achieve maximum leg power, distance runners don’t need such an exaggerated knee lift–it’s simply too hard to maintain for long periods of time. Instead, efficient endurance running requires just a slight knee lift, a quick leg turnover, and a short stride. I used to be a heel striker..I’ve trained myself to be a midfoot striker. Being a sprinter in school doesn’t help either because sprinters run on their toes! Now a distance runner I need to run midfoot, it’s not an easy transition but it is possible. Just takes training and patience!!
FOOT- You need to push off the ground with maximum force. Your foot should hit the ground lightly–landing between your heel and midfoot–then quickly roll forward. Keep your ankle flexed as your foot moves forward to create more force for push-off. As you move onto your toes, try to spring off. You should feel your calf muscles drive you forward on each step. Your feet should not slam loudly when they hit the ground. Imagine you are running on clouds, light, gentle hits on the ground.
CADENCE- Running cadence is where you run a certain amount of steps per minute. It helps conserve energy, and it prevent injuries as it keeps your pace at the same speed. The common goal is have a cadence of 180 steps per minute, or 3 steps a seconds. Keeping this pace keeps you from over striding and keeps your energy level. To try to figure out your cadence you can count your right foot strikes for 30 seconds, and multiply by 4. There are also a few cadence apps to install on your phone and helps me keep track and stay at a comfortable cadence. The New Balance Good Form Running is a good one, they also have a few useful videos that explain and show all the steps for a proper running form.
When you master all these moves it should come naturally to you and when you start off for a run your body will automatically be in this proper running form =)