Running can be simple, but by thinking about your technique you can make your running form smoother and more efficient, which can help you run faster.
Follow these basic technique tips while you run to improve your form. It’s a full body checklist you can go through in your head while running.
Don’t run with your eyes looking down at your feet, which can be really tempting when you’re tired. Your eyes should be focused ahead of you. Aim to look 10 to 15m in front of you to achieve a good running technique.
Try to keep your face relaxed. Tension in your face can cause tension through your whole body, which makes you run slower. One common area that people subconsciously tense while running is the jaw. Keep the jaw relaxed as much as possible, as a tight jaw can lead to tension in the spinal cord while you run.
Your head is heavier than you think, so it is important where you support it to avoid undue strain. Don’t drop the head forwards – but equally, don’t pull it back. You might find your head naturally jutting forward, similar to how you’d sit at a computer or while watching TV. Make a conscious effort to avoid this, keeping the head in a straight, neutral position.
The shoulders should be relaxed when running. The best way to do this is to avoid making a tight fist. If you’re looking for long term improvements, strengthening your upper and mid back muscles, as well as building up your chest muscles, can help to reduce shoulder tightness when running.
Whilst a lot of the power comes from the legs when running, your arms are important as well. They are there to drive you forward, and shouldn’t be left to flail around loosely. Keep your elbows bent and concentrate on moving the arms powerfully at your sides, without letting them swing across your body. The faster your arms move when running, the faster your legs can move.
There’s a fine balance to strike with your hands when running. They shouldn’t be tightly clenched, but they also shouldn’t dangle loosely. It might sound weird, but imagine you’re holding a crisp between each thumb and forefinger - tight enough to keep hold of it, but not so tight that you crush it. Who said eating crisps wouldn’t make you a better runner?
Your torso should be perpendicular to the ground, back kept straight and your navel pulled in to your spine. Don’t arch back or lean forward, which can throw your alignment off or restrict your breathing.
Avoid slumping onto the pelvis, as this will weaken the stability of your core. Stand tall as you run to prevent this.
Aim for a reasonable but not excessive knee lift with each stride but don’t worry about reaching your heels to your bum (unless you are sprinting).
Your ankles absorb a lot of impact when you run, and when there’s tension in them you’ll be submitting them to unnecessary shock. Focus on staying light on your feet, and raise your foot up towards the front of your knee while gently flexing your ankle when you kick off. If you want to get technical, this is called dorsiflexion and can help to keep your ankles in a natural plane of motion.
Runners are often split into two camps between heel strikers and mid-foot strikers, which essentially boils down to which part of your foot hits the floor first when you run. Research is increasingly beginning to show that heel striking can cause injuries. Aim to land on your mid-food, and roll smoothly through to the forefoot before pushing off the ground.
Some running experts recommend breathing through your nose, while others suggest the most efficient way of breathing in and out is through the mouth, not the nose. The bottom line is do what feels best for you. One thing that definitely can help is to maintain a steady breathing rhythm, with a set pattern dictated by your foot strikes.
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