For many, the beauty of running is the simplicity. Back to basics, two feet on the ground, run to clear your head. Unfortunately if your technique is wrong, each run will feel like a chore and your body will be less efficient.
There are hundreds of articles and posts that will try and walk you through the perfect form, step by step (pun intended), but if you are like me and you just want to know how not to hurt yourself whilst enjoying a run, then these three points should help get you on track to improving your running form…
In simple terms, cadence is how often your feet touch the ground. The average runner will have a cadence of 160 – 170 steps per minute, this means the runner is over-striding which encourages heel striking and poor posture. Your foot should make contact with the ground directly below, rather than in front of your body. A higher cadence such as 180 foot strikes per minute will help this.
Tip: Set a metronome to 180bpm (beats per minute) and try to run to the beat (or for more enjoyment find music with that tempo. Hey Ya – Outcast is one of few…)
Unrelaxed Upper Body
Don’t be so tense! A build up of tension in your upper body and face can cause stiffer movement in your arms, shoulders and legs. This stiffness is a runners worst nightmare, it is inefficient! If you take a look at almost every world class runner, each one looks relaxed when they run, thus allowing themselves to be more in control. This control not only allows for a better run, but a more enjoyable, less stressful experience.
Tip: Keep your hands loose and below your chest, make sure you don’t punch forwards and throw off your gait. At every 1/2 mile raise your shoulders to your ears and squeeze tight for 15 seconds. This relaxes the muscle by contracting it hard.
Lack of Mobility
Mobility is the ability to move your joints freely. This is the most important element when trying to run fast and stay healthy. Partial range of movement in your joints can be from a variety of reasons: previous injury, tight muscles, or sedentary lifestyle. If your lower body lacks a range of motion expect a higher risk of injury to follow.
Tip: Incorporate dynamic stretches into your warm up. Dynamic stretches are rhythmic in nature (think arm circles), and prepare the body for the run. This type of stretching will also maintain body temperature and reduce stress on the body.
Overall tip: If you have been running for years and have never had any problems with injury or recurring aches and pains there is probably no need to change your form. Runners with experience tend to become less efficient when they make changes to their form.