Many new runners want to improve their speed and strength by doing lots of additional exercises and sometimes even investing on expensive equipment. Doing these things is not bad – if the exercises are done correctly or if the equipment fits the runner, it may show good results. But great improvements in speed can be achieved by doing one simple step: refining your running form. Not only you can run more efficiently but more importantly you’ll be less at risk of injuries.
Here are some tips to improve your form:
1. Look straight ahead
Imagine you’re trying to catch someone or something that is moving 10 to 20 feet ahead of you. If you need to check your feet, make sure you don’t keep your head down for a long time. Looking ahead would straighten your spine and keep your neck from tensing up. Also, you can see what’s coming and keep yourself from bumping into something!
2. Shoulders down
This doesn’t mean slouching your shoulders, but think about ‘pulling your shoulders away from your ears.’ Keep your shoulder blades to neutral, not too tensed or not too slouched down. This helps your arm swing and trunk rotation when you run.
3. Hands to your pockets
Don’t put them inside your pockets, but when you swing your arms keep them to the level where your pockets are or where your hands might slightly brush your hip. Keep your elbow at a 90 degree angle and point your hands forward. Remember that you want to move forward so you should swing your arms forward as well, not bringing your hands in front of your chest to keep your trunk from twisting too much.
4. Hold an egg
You can observe that a lot of runners tend to clench their fists. This small movement causes tightness around the arms and even tension in the neck and shoulders. Imagine holding eggs with each of your hands – you don’t want to break them so gently cup your hands and relax.
5. Land comfortably
There are those that say that runners should ALWAYS land on their mid-foot. I disagree with this notion because runners have significant individual differences from one another. Most runners would be comfortable landing on their mid-foot but if you have a high arc, it’s a different story. Also in terms of technique, if you want to sprint then you’re better off landing on your toes. Some people will be more comfortable landing on their heels and then rolling their foot, as long as they have enough heel cushioning. What’s more important is your ‘stride length’ – you would not want your leg to be way ahead of you unless you are sprinting. Your feet should land directly underneath your body and as your foot strikes the ground, your knee should be slightly bent naturally upon impact.
If you’re just starting to run, try to run naturally and slowly at first while checking out these 5 simple tips on how to improve your form.