When I first got into running, I simply picked up my feet, swung my arms and went. Proper running wasn’t something I considered until I started training for my first half marathon. My dad watched me run on a treadmill and said “great running form” and that’s when it hit me: what is proper running form?
A quick Internet search for “proper running form” left me lost, confused, and second guessing my ability to run. There was a puzzle of scientific jargon: swing phase, stance time, loading rate, stretch reflex and perfect running posture.
But the more I practiced various techniques, the more I realized the importance of doing it right. Focusing on improving running form will help cut your risk of overuse injuries so you can run more consistently. Through years of practice and experience I’ve determined what works for me and other runners I coach.
Rather than getting lost in the scientific technicalities, stick to these five simple tips.
- Push off. Focus on pushing up and off the ground behind you. One of my favorite tips is to look at photographs of elite runners, and you can see the power behind each stride.
- Short, quick strides. Avoid reaching forward with your foot, which can lead to over-striding, causing too much impact shock through the leg, and leading to injury.
- Stand up straight. Maintain a tall, straight back without slouching. There should be a slight lean forward that happens from your ankles, not your waist, but this happens naturally without effort.
- Keep your knees in line. Make sure your foot strikes under your knee, not in front of it, which can lead to injury. It actually does not matter what part of your foot hits the ground first, forefoot, midfoot, or heel, just be sure that your foot is not in front of your knee.
- Arm Swing. Keep your elbows bent at 90 degrees or less. When you swing your arms with your stride, pretend you are pulling something out of your pocket to keep your shoulders relaxed and not tensed. Make sure your hands are loose and do not cross your midline in order to maintain proper gait.
When it comes to tackling a hill, you’ll need to adjust your form accordingly. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when climbing or descending a hill.
- Keep your head and chest up and shoulders back.
- Push up and off the hill, springing from your toes.
- Don’t hunch over and bend at the waist.
- Visualize “controlled falling.”
- Keep your fists loose and shoulders relaxed.
- Step softly; don’t let your feet pound the ground.
Remember, running does not have to be scientific or complicated. Simply focus on these fundamentals and you’ll notice immediate improvements in your runs!