Perfect Your Running Technique

Running Tips

Improving your running technique even a fraction of a percent per stride can have a huge effect on your ability to run faster/longer, recover faster, have fewer injuries, and enjoy your running even more. Think about how many thousands of strides you take while you run. Small steps to improve your form can have a tremendous influence on your performance.

I suggest rather than changing your technique, work on refining your biomechanical running skills. If you frequently experience over-use injuries, which are almost always technique-related, I would start today to modify how you run. However, if you never experience running injuries, I suggest you work on a quicker turnover.

I literally wrote the book on how to run, Programmed to Run, but this summer embarked on a serious program to improve my running–primarily targeting my posture and running with a quicker turnover. In the last couple months, I ran three half marathons more than 10 minutes faster than I have in 10 years. Focus on the process and the running will take care of itself.

Your Running Technique

Perfect Your Running Technique – What Does Proper Running Form Look Like?

If you consider distance running (not sprinting) a momentum sport where the idea is to maintain a desired velocity over a period of time or distance, then your running technique should enhance your ability to maintain that momentum. Now consider the fluid grace of an elite runner–especially the Kenyans and Ethiopians.

Their shoulders are always slightly forward of their hips, while the natural curvature of the spine is balanced over their pelvises, which are tilted forward. Stand up and shift your shoulders somewhat forward of your hips and what do you sense? Gravity pulls you forward without any effort on your part. Now raise your hands up to touch the bottom side of your ribcage, with your thumbs touching your side near heart height.

You will feel your shoulders tilt forward, urging your body to move ahead–again with minimal effort. As demonstrated, a balanced-forward posture utilizes gravity to extend your forward momentum with each stride. There is no debate whether heel or mid-foot initial contact is more efficient. I have never observed a world-class distance runner sustain a heel foot strike for more than a stride or so, and that is usually at the start of a downhill. Stand up again and step forward making contact with your heel.

Take a look at your leg: It has to be straight. So how is the impact of contact to be absorbed? The answer is up through your skeleton. Now start to back your leading foot up until it feels stable. I bet that your ankle, knee and hip are slightly flexed and your foot is under your center of gravity. If you were to contact the ground in this configuration, where would the shock go? How To Perfect Your Running Technique

It would be absorbed in the muscles and tendons that are stretched across these joints and would be stored as elastic energy. This energy can be released through your toes and supplement your push off as you bound lightly forward. The graceful, fluid strides of elite runners fit this description.

They land lightly on their mid-foot, settling soft onto their whole foot under slightly bent knees and with flexing ankles and hips. They have a balanced forward posture, including some shoulder and pelvic tilting during compact arm swings and light, quick leg turnover. The overall effect is floating over the ground rather than pounding along on top of it.

Perfect Your Running Technique – What is the Best Way to Analyze My Form?

First, you must have a clear picture of what perfect running form looks like. Study world-class runners and see if my previous description is accurate. Your body will respond to an image in your mind. I think the best thing you can do is see yourself running. I’ve worked with athletes for months to adjust their running form.

When they watch themselves running via video, they finally see what they’re doing wrong. It’s very important to see yourself running in order to match the image of how you think you run with how you actually run. I used to run around in shopping centers to see my reflections in store-front windows.

Now there are myriad choices of video to utilize. Ask a friend or running partner to shoot video of you running and have a coach evaluate your form. Seek out a coach online or locally who is knowledgeable about running skills (biomechanics), not just training methods. Have them analyze and critique your form.

Perfect Your Running Technique – What Are Some Simple Drills I Can Do to Improve My Running Technique?

One of the best drills you can do is to take your shoes off and run barefoot on a track or even around your house. I’ve done quite a few running clinics where I’ve asked people to run with their shoes on and then with their shoes off. Once they started running barefoot, their running form changes.

Running barefoot allows you to feel exactly what is happening to your feet as you run. Another drill is to focus on your posture. Runners are told to run upright, which people interpret as standing up straight. But when you stand up, all of your joints are perfectly aligned. Running with your shoulders forward allows the curvature of your spine to be natural.

Your Running Technique

Keep your hands close to your body, elbows back and chest forward. Also, practice running with a quick and right step. One of the most important attributes of a runner is a quick turn-over and light foot contact with the ground. Like athletes in all other sports, constantly refining and adjusting your technique is a lifetime pursuit.

How To Perfect Your Running Technique

Arm Swing – Keep your arms relaxed and close to your body. (It’s important not to cross your arms over in front of your body.) This helps to keep your chest open so your breathing is easier and reduces over-rotation. Make sure you also keep your hands and shoulders nice and relaxed. The arm swing in endurance running doesn’t provide drive like in sprinting; instead it provides balance and rhythm.

Slightly increasing the elbow bend at the back of the swing helps the elbow to act like a pendulum and makes running more efficient. Aim for 90-110° of elbow bend at the back of the arm swing. Visualise a string attached to the back of your elbow and it being pulled back. Alternatively, imagine squeezing a golf ball in the small of your elbow at the back of the swing. How To Perfect Your Running Technique

Foot Clearance – Keeping your foot from lifting too high off the ground increases efficiency by reducing energy expenditure. The smaller the arc to return the foot back to the front, the more efficient your running technique is.

Straight and Tall Torso – How To Perfect Your Running Technique Think straight and tall like someone’s pulling upwards on a string that’s connected to your head. This will prevent you from slouching and improve your biomechanics throughout. It’s especially important as you tire, as this is when people tend to slouch, which increases your energy expenditure.

Strong Stomach – A strong stomach assists in improving pelvic control and drive for the run gait. Keeping a stable pelvis means the gluteal muscles can be used more efficiently while allowing you to wind up your connective tissue. The connective tissue then acts like a spring to recoil and drive your leg through to the front using less energy. A functional way to develop this strength is to lie on your back and then slowly extend your legs out one at a time. Do this to fatigue three to five times.

Thoracic Spine – Your thoracic spine is the region between the bottom of your rib cage and your neck. Keeping this part of your back upright allows for a relaxed rotation and arm swing. People are often stiff through this area, especially those who work behind a desk or do a lot of driving. Thoracic mobilisation using a roller is great to retain mobility. Keep your lower back flat and rest your back over the roller for 1min in three different positions. This will also help your swimming to achieve a better stroke length and high elbow position.

Foot Contact and Cadence – The location of initial foot contact with the ground is key to good run technique. The foot contacting the ground in front of the hips leads to an increase in braking forces on landing, slowing you down and increasing injury risk. It’s not about how your foot lands (heel vs midfoot strike) that’s critical but where it lands. To prevent over-striding, work on increasing your cadence. Keeping your foot relaxed and allowing your full foot to contact the ground allows you to use the best shock absorber there is – the arch of your foot.

Strong Pelvis – The less movement through your pelvis when your foot lands, the better. When your pelvis is sloppy on foot landing there’s an increase in energy loss, which quickly adds up to lost speed over a triathlon.

Head Position – Your head position is crucial in controlling your body position. Look too far forward and you’ll lean back and slow yourself down; too close and you’ll be slouching and applying a braking force to your stride. It’s ideal to look around 10-15 metres in front. How To Perfect Your Running Technique

No Crossing Over Midline – Ideally your feet should land in line with your hip joint and not cross over the midline of the body. Crossing the midline is typically a sign that the athlete isn’t strong enough through their gluteals and stomach to support the pelvis on initial foot contact.

This crossover is a compensation that some adopt, which again can increase the risk of injury and also reduce efficiency. To prevent this, again work hard on gluteal strength and activation, along with visualising keeping the feet slightly wider on initial contact. Your Running Technique

Hip Extension – The greater the degree of hip extension you can achieve while controlling your core, the faster you’ll be able to run. To improve hip extension, regularly do hip flexor exercises like the butterfly stretch. Dynamic stretches like walking lunges, butt-kicks and toy soldier walks are best just prior to training, with short holds (3secs) and static stretches (aim for 30sec holds) key during the period immediately after training.

Knee Stability – Knee injuries are one of the most common reasons why triathletes and runners end up on the sidelines. If you’re not strong enough through the gluteal muscles (the buttocks), your knee can track inwards slightly when your foot lands. This can cause a multitude of problems including hip pain, knee pain, shin splints, plantar fasciitis and many other common running injuries. To prevent this, work hard on both the crab walk, knee push and quarter-squat exercises. How To Perfect Your Running Technique

How To Perfect Your Running Technique

Practice running fast – If you’ve ever watched Mo Farah speed away at the end of a race, you’ll notice how he suddenly transforms into a sprinter. It may look natural, but he’s had lots of practice! Top runners include regular sprint training into their schedules… and that’s on top of running over 100 miles per week.

If you just run at a slow and steady pace, your body can become lazy and that’s when your form falls apart. By doing weekly speed training, you’ll stimulate your neuromuscular system. The bottom line is faster, more efficient running. To get you started, perform 4-8 times 10 second sprints after a thorough warm up, 1-2 times per week.

Eliminate over-striding – If your foot contacts the ground ahead of your hips, you’re committing a form error. As well as wasting energy, over-striding increases the force of impact putting you at risk of shin splints, stress fractures and knee pain. How To Perfect Your Running Technique

Over-striding can be a result of a number of factors; tight hip flexors is a common culprit so ensure you stretch them out regularly. Over-striding can also be the result of slow stride rate. By speeding up your foot strike, you’re feet will be more likely to land underneath your hips.

 

 

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