How to achieve proper running form
There are many different books, workshops and programs that deal with running form. ChiRunning, Good Form Running, and the Pose Technique are some of the philosophies you may have heard of. While each of these may vary slightly and some are more complex than others, good running form always boils down to the same four basic principles.
Start incorporating these into your running and you will not only be less injury prone, but you could also become a faster runner, too. Focus on one item at a time and gradually add the others. Be patient — changing your running form takes time, conscious energy and commitment, but the effort will pay off!
Imagine a string running through your body, from the top of your head all the way down to your feet. Now imagine that someone is pulling on the string from above your head, causing you to stand straight and tall. This is how you should carry yourself when you are running.
Landing on your heels is essentially like using the brakes on a car: It causes significant jarring throughout your entire body and causes you to slow down. Conversely, landing on your forefoot puts considerable strain on your calf and Achilles tendon. Landing on your midfoot, however, prevents both of these problems. Landing on your midfoot basically means you are striking the ground with your entire foot at the same time. Your heel, arch, and forefoot all hit the ground together.
Cadence refers to how many times per minute your foot hits the ground. An ideal cadence is between 170 and 180 steps per minute. To find your current cadence, count the number of times your right foot hits the ground in 20 seconds and multiply by 6. If you need to increase your cadence to get to 170 or 180, do so very slowly. You can use a metronome that you can clip to your clothes (sold at running stores) — simply start out at five steps per minute over your current cadence and increase by five every week until you reach your optimal cadence. For instance, if you currently run at 140 steps per minute, use a metronome to run at 145 steps per minute for one week, then increase to 150 for another week and so on until you reach 170 to 180 (somewhere in this range that is comfortable for you). You can also find songs that have BPM (beats per minute) equal to the cadence you are looking for and run to the beat of the music.
Most people associate cadence with speed. Your cadence should actually stay the same whether you are running an 11-minute mile or a 7-minute mile. What changes is your stride length. To increase your speed, extend your stride and you will cover more ground with the same number of steps.
When most people lean while running, they lean from the waist. This is incorrect and could lead to significant strain on your back. You want to keep a straight posture the entire time you are running and lean from your ankles. This “falling forward” propels you forward and helps you run faster. For a jog, you should lean forward about 1 inch. For a sprint, you should lean forward about 4 inches. For speeds in between, 2 to 3 inches is ideal. The farther you lean, the faster you will go. But remember, it is a very slight lean — nothing drastic.
Other helpful tips
Run from your core: As you run, engage your core. Ultimately, you want to lift and propel your legs using your lower abdominal muscles rather than your quadriceps. By doing this, you lessen the load on your leg muscles and reduce fatigue. This also helps build a strong core.
Land beneath your hips: Your feet should strike the ground underneath your hips. Rather than extending your leg forward and getting your stride length from the front of your body, you want to land your foot on the ground underneath your center of gravity and then extend your leg behind you. Your stride length comes from the kick behind you rather than from extending your legs in front of you.
Use proper arm position: Your arms should be bent at a 90-degree angle and should swing directly forward and backward. Try not to swing your arms across your torso as you run. Keep your arms and hands relaxed. Pretend that you are carrying an egg in each hand to avoid clenching your fists.
Look straight ahead: Keep your head up and focus your gaze directly in front of you. Focus on something in the distance or on the horizon and try to keep this gaze as you run.
This article is part of series leading up to the PF Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon and Half Marathon on Jan. 19. The SheKnows team will be prepping for the race and sharing updates along the way!