As we come to the end of tri season and gear up for our off season training and the fall running events, it’s the perfect time to get back to the basics. Getting the running shoes on and out the door is just the first step… Most people don’t realize that running is not just about putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward; there are many small nuances and techniques to running that create better run efficiency, power, and the ability to run injury free. Proper run form is the key to increasing your speed as well as to help you from getting injured. While the training pace slows down a bit, it is the perfect time to reassess your run technique and really work on your running form and efficiency. Here are a few proper run form technique pointers:
1. Posture: You should run tall and erect, shoulders level, back straight with a neutral pelvis.
2. Forward Lean: Lean forward from your ankles. Many times you will see people running hunched over from their waist or their shoulders (I blame it on computers and being hunched over at a desk all day). This can tighten the chest and restrict breathing. The other extreme is the puffed chest runner I like to call a peacock runner. They literally lead with their chest.
Proper form: You want to be tall when you run while leaning from your ankles, creating a light forward angle to your body.
Helpful hint: think about looking forward about 20-30 feet on the path you are running; this will naturally give your body a slight forward tilt. Looking directly down will make you hunch and looking way up at the horizon can lead to almost a backwards tilt – you want to lean forward in the direction you are going and let the natural forces help you, not fight against you.
3. Relax! Relax your shoulders and relax your hands! Let your body fall into a natural rhythm. Running tense is wasted energy, and as you start to run long you will feel the effects whether you realize it or not.
4. 90 degree arms: Keep elbows at a 90degree bend. If you are breaking this it means that you are “hammering” with your arm and losing efficiency. Arms should swing from the shoulder joint not the elbow. Hands should brush by your waist, not be tight up by your chest which can cause fatigue and tightness in your shoulders and back.
5. Midfoot strike: (though this one is often up for debate…) Land with your foot striking directly under your center of mass and roll off the ball of your foot. Heel striking often means that you are over striding, which affects run efficiency and means you are “braking,” causing you to actually run “slower” and may lead to injury because of the impact on your joints. If you are running all on the balls of your feet, your calves can get tight and fatigue quickly or you can develop shin pain.
6. Run cadence: This is the frequency of your foot strike. Ideally run cadence is around 90 (or 180 steps per minute), though many elite runners and triathletes will run at a cadence of 100 (this is very high for most people). Running with shorter strides uses less energy and creates less stress on your muscles and impact to your joints. To count your run cadence, during any portion of your run choose one foot and count how many times it strikes down in a minute. If you are way under 90 this could mean that you are either over-striding and/or your foot is spending too much time with impact on the ground (anywhere from 88-90 is great). You want to think light and airy when you run, not thumping down heavy footed. Run as if you are running on a hot surface: quick, light, and with short strides. NO bouncing! Bouncing = wasted energy and too much impact on your muscles and joints.
Next time you put those sneakers on and head out the door, don’t look at it as just trying to get a workout checked off, but really take moments in your run to focus on and think about how you run and how you can improve your run efficiency by following the above pointers. Have questions? Ask your coaches at track and team Saturday runs!
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