How do you run? It’s simple: with one foot in front of the other, increasing the speed faster, faster, the hips allowing the legs to move like a wheel. Running a natural movement. It’s what we did playing as a child and what our primal ancestors did for survival. Running is in our blood. It’s like riding a bike, you can’t forget how to do it. But a common question new runners ask is am I running “right?”
It does take proper mechanics when it comes to running efficiently for speed and safety for preventing an injury.
One of the most common things beginner runners ask is how exactly to run correctly?
The Importance of Proper Form
Proper form is essential for running smoothly and pain-free. For example, forward leading or having an anterior pelvic tilt can cause tight hip flexors and hunched shoulders which lead to all kinds of problems when it comes to activating the right muscle groups and preventing tightness in others.
Many runners new to the activity find that it is uncomfortable. And that’s mostly because they aren’t practicing the right running form. Running should not be painful. It should be fun and freeing.
And just know that even seasoned runners and elites have to be conscious of their form all the time. It’s something to practice over and over again during each run.
Having proper form means you can run further and faster.
Running Form 101
The best way to approach form is to take a look at what each body part should be doing from the head to the toes.
Your head should be in a neutral position, chin slightly tucked in and eyes gazing off a few feet ahead. If your eyes are looking down, your neck will follow. Your mouth should be slightly opened and relaxed.
Your shoulders should be in a relaxed position, not up to your ears. Elevating the scapula will cause tightness throughout the rest of your kinetic chain. Relax so your muscles can contract to their full range.
Running is all about having good posture. And especially you are fatigued.
Keep your spine straight and think standing tall. One of the best tips I’ve read from Jonathan Beverly in Your Best Stride is to imagine you have a string attached to your head and someone is pulling it up as if you were a puppet. When you get tired you are going to want to start to hunch over. Don’t do this. You want to be able to breathe and not waste energy.
The same is true about your arms. If you ever saw school-aged track stars compete, some raised their hands as if they are T-rex when they start to get tired. Don’t do this.
Your arms need to swing properly. They help with the momentum to move your body forward.
Do not swing your arms across your body. You want to swing them from and back. Let your arms create a 90-degree angle and keep slightly higher than hip height. Think about using your triceps to push the arms back and let gravity pull them forward.
Your core should be engaged during a run. Running is a great full-body workout because of the major muscles groups are at work. So get those abs by squeezing them, especially your lower abs. Pull your belly button into your spine.
But at the same time, you don’t want to hold your breath. Breathing is everything for running smoothly. If you ever experienced a pain side stitch then you know how these can stop you in your tracks. Side stitched are common in beginner runners and are caused by a muscle spasm in the diaphragm from not being able to catch your breath. Breathe in through your nose for two, and out with nose and mouth. But instead of thinking of the air filling the lungs, focus on a “deep belly breathe” that comes from the stomach (really the diaphragm).
The hips flexors are so important for running. These muscles are the ones responsible for bending your knee and extending your leg back. It’s important to open the hips up so none of these muscles are tight via stretches. But when I talk about the hips when it comes to proper running form, I’m really talking about the pelvis.
You want to imagine that your pelvis is a bowl filled with water. Tilt it forward and water will spill out, tilt it back, and the same. You want to keep your hips in a neutral position when running. And with each stride aim not to let any water spill out.
You want to lead with the hips, not with the leg that stretches out in the stride.
Do not run with a wide stride. Taking fewer wider steps will not increase speed. Instead, you want to think about having your feet spend less time on the group when we think about cadence and speed.
For the legs, keep them under your hips and focus on getting the leg back and up towards the glutes. This better engaged the hamstrings, glute medius, and gluteus maxims which are key muscles for running.
Aim to land softly on your feed about the mid-section of the foot. Many expert say don’t land on the heel. However, there are plenty of runners who are heel strikers. I would say this is the least of the runner’s problems when thinking about form. Try to nail everything else down then work on foot placement.
It’s also important to get fitted for running shoes based on if you overpronate, which means your feet roll inwards to much. Some suffer from supination where the ankle rolls upward and out. This can cause issues on your tibia and calf muscles. Having proper running shoes to address these issues can help get the feet into a neutral position.
Make you check out the breathing techniques to use when running included in this FREE resource!
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