From the top of your head to the soles of your feet, proper running mechanics actually do matter.
You’ve heard the phrase, “run like the wind.” The wind moves smoothly, silently, and effortlessly through the air. Runners should aim to do the same. The way you move your body when you run can have a big impact on your speed and efficiency.
Unfortunately, many runners make mistakes in their running form. These mistakes may seem minor, but they can lead to injury or a slower personal best. A smooth, relaxed gait, on the other hand, will conserve energy, giving you the extra boost you need to make it to the finish line safely and in good time.
Get your best race results by practicing the following tips for proper running form.
Head and Neck
Proper posture is important for correct running form. Keep your head in line with the rest of your lower body by keeping your neck in line with your back. Don’t jut your chin forward or look down at your feet. Look straight ahead of your body with your eyes on the horizon, while scanning the ground before you. Keep your jaw relaxed rather than tense.
How you hold your shoulders is key to a relaxed running form. Run with your shoulders loose and in a natural position. It’s easy to let the shoulders creep up where they become tense. If you find this happening, shake them out and lower them back down. Keep your shoulders level, not dipping down or moving forward with your stride.
In the event you find your neck or shoulders sore after a run, reevaluate your form and focus on relaxing your shoulders during your next run.
Arms and Hands
Your arms may not be pounding the pavement, but they play an important role in proper running mechanics. You’ll see people moving their arms in all kinds of different ways, but the best way is to bend your elbows at a 90 degree angle and to swing your arms forward and back, rather than side to side in front of your body. Keep the 90-degree angle the whole time rather than letting your arm straighten as it goes back. This wastes energy. Also, keep your hands between your waist and ribs—not down by your hips or up by your chest.
Keep your hands as relaxed as possible. Don’t clench your fists, but keep your hands in a gentle fist, letting your fingertips barely touch your palms. If you find your hands clenched or your arms tight, shake them out and try to relax.
Torso and Hips
Runners with proper keep their back and torso straight and tall, aligned with their head and hips. Avoid leaning forward or slouching, but “run tall” in a relaxed, upright position.
If your back and torso are in correct position, your hips will naturally point forward. Letting your hips swing side to side or tilt backward will put pressure on your back and throw off your posture.
The type of running you do will determine exactly how you need to move your legs. For example, sprinters must lift their knees high and take long strides, while long distance runners slightly lift their knees and take shorter strides. Keep your lower leg below your body rather than extended in front of your body and let your feet land on the ground straight under your body. This way you’ll be able to propel your body forward.
Remember—you want to run like the wind! With that in mind, work to make each step hit the ground lightly to make as little noise and contact as possible. Land each step between your heel and the middle of your foot, and then roll it forward toward your toes and spring off the ground. Don’t land each step on your heel. Practice running barefoot and you’ll learn the proper technique.
Practice proper running mechanics and watch your distance, speed, and endurance improve!
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