Proper Running Form Guide

Learning proper running form can greatly improve the quality of your runs. Although running form doesn’t seem all that important from a fitness standpoint, applying good running form will help you make big gains in your speed and endurance, reduce your risk for injuries, and enhance the way you feel during and after your runs. Read the following guide to learn how to improve your running biomechanics part by part.

Head

The position of your head will determine much of your overall posture, which in turn will determine how efficiently you run. Let your gaze guide you. Look ahead naturally and scan the horizon, not down at your feet. On the other hand, don’t cock your head up where it creates tension in the shoulders. Avoid sticking your neck forward unless you are sprinting a short distance. The back of your neck and spine should represent a straight line perpendicular to the ground.

Shoulders

Keep your shoulders loose and low. Avoid keeping them tense and high. This slows you down and you’ll waste a lot of energy. This also prevents the lungs from expanding to their fullest range, and you’ll have less oxygen to get to working muscles. Avoid shrugging your shoulders up as you swing your arms because it makes your running choppy.

Arms

Although running is mostly a lower body activity, you can’t have proper running form without correct arm swing technique. It helps you keep your balance and follow threw with your leg stride. I’ll start off with the hands because whatever they do or wherever they go your arms will follow. Never clench them into fists. This will create unnecessary tension throughout your whole body. Instead, gently connect your thumbs to the top half of your index fingers. Then, gently touch your finger tips to your palms. Imagine there is a potato chip inside and you don’t want to break it. Have your elbows bent at a 90 degree angle, but keep them relaxed at your sides. Never prop your hands up high or bend your elbows too much. As you bring one foot forward swing the opposite hand forward and up just below sternum level. Don’t protrude the hands outwards, but don’t swing them past the center line of your chest. When you make the transition to the other foot, swing your arm down and brush your thumb past the hips. At the same time, start your upswing with the other hand. Repeat this in a relaxed fashion at a smooth rhythm on pace with your legs. Make sure you keep those elbows bent. Remember to never over exaggerate the arm swing and just stay relaxed.

Torso

Run tall by keeping your back perpendicular to the ground. Do not lean forward (except when sprinting short distances) as this may lead to lower back strain. It also restricts your lungs, therefore leading to less oxygen intake. Avoid leaning backwards as this will cause you to heel strike pronouncedly, putting too much stress on your knees, hips, and back. You especially don’t want to twist your torso from side to side. This causes lots of imbalances in your body, which places stress at all the major joint areas. Not to mention it’s really inefficient because it displaces your forward momentum sideways.

Lower Body

Now, on to the juicy subject of running form, proper lower body running biomechanics. First, let’s talk about the feet because they will determine overall stride quality. Take short steps and land your feet directly under your body with each stride. If your lower leg lands ahead of the knee, you are over striding and are increasing your risk for injuries. Keep your knees slightly bent at all times and do not lift them too high. Don’t strike the ground with your toes. Instead, strike softly with your midfoot and roll through to your forefoot smoothly. Bouncing is inefficient as it displaces your momentum up instead of forward. It also increases risk for injuries because you come down harder. Avoid swinging your feet back too far. It doesn’t really do anything for your running but get you tired and increase your risk for hamstring injuries. Stay low to the ground and practice quicker leg turnover. Just imagine that you are gliding across the ground, and remember to stay relaxed.

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