Running is one of the skills we learn growing up. It came naturally for us during playtime – we moved our bodies in ways that allowed us to run faster than others.
Our bodies changed as we got older and so did our natural biomechanics. When you’re 16, you won’t run the way you did at 6. The same can be said when you’re 26, 36, or 46.
If you don’t run correctly, you will be more susceptible to injury especially at an older age. Thus, it is important to learn proper running technique not just to improve performance but to make this high-impact activity safer.
Top 10 Tips On Proper Running Technique
You could be running in Eliud Kipchoge’s INEOS 1:59 Nike shoes, but if you don’t observe proper technique, you could end up walking to the finish line – of your running career.
Running doesn’t just involve your lower body. It’s a total body activity that engages your core and needs the hips and arms to maintain stability. Our top 10 tips on proper running technique is a checklist that goes from head-to-toe!
1. Don’t Look Down
Do you look at your feet when you’re walking? You shouldn’t and it’s more important to look straight ahead when you’re running.
First, for safety reasons, you’d like to see what’s ahead of you. Second, keeping your eyes focused on the ground 10 to 20-feet ahead of you maintains the correct alignment between your neck and spine.
Start the run with your head ahead of your shoulders. A cue that running coaches tell their athletes is to focus on keeping their ears in line with the shoulders during the run.
2. Open Up the Shoulders
Spending too much time working behind the desk will put you at risk of developing rounded shoulders. This is a condition whereby your shoulders favor a forward, downward tilt.
Chronic pain in the neck, shoulders, and upper back areas are attributed to having rounded shoulders.
When running, open up your shoulders. Imagine you have a pencil in-between your shoulder blades. Then, pull the shoulder blades back and squeeze them hard.
Running with rounded shoulders will slow you down; it will require you to spend more energy and affect your endurance.
Keep your shoulders relaxed. If you’re fatigued, bring your arms down and loosen up the shoulders by shaking them out.
3. Keep Your Elbows at 90 Degrees
Your arms are an integral part of your running technique. Keep your elbows close to your sides and maintain a 90-degree angle. Your hands must be moving from hip-to-chin.
Running with your arms at a 90-degree angle will help drive you forward without unnecessarily sacrificing energy.
If your arms are moving across your body that means your elbows are pointed outward. This position will use up more energy and slow you down.
4. Relax Your Hands
Running coaches will often tell their athletes to imagine they are holding a potato chip between the thumb and forefinger while running. If you grip a potato chip too tightly, it will break.
If your hands are tight or in a clenched position during a run, your entire upper body will likewise, feel tight. Body parts that are kept in a contracted position will use up more energy and slow you down.
5. Maintain a Tight Core
You may have heard your gym class teacher remind you to maintain a “tall spine” while running. What the gym class teacher means is to maintain a tight core – keep your upper body upright and elongated to prevent hunching over.
The core section involves the muscles from your upper back, abdominal area, hips, and lower body.
Keeping your core tight allows you to utilize all of the elastic energy that is generated by every heel strike and distribute it throughout your body for a more powerful, faster run.
6. It’s All in the Hips
A strong and stable hip will enable you to run with a slight forward lean. The forward-lean position is often called the “strong position” in other sports because it actively engages the core section and the powerful muscles of the glutes.
The forward-lean position should be initiated by breaking at the hips and not by hunching the shoulders forward.
7. Align the Knee with Your Mid-Foot
You will get maximum push-off if your knee is aligned with your mid-foot when it strikes the ground. Running with the knees at a high angle will only waste energy unnecessarily.
The knee should be kept in line with the hip while running. It should not move out to the side or turn inward because it will slow you down and expose the knee to the risk of injury.
8. Shins at a 90 Degree Angle
One way of keeping your knees safe from the jarring effects of impact forces is to keep your shins perpendicular to the ground or at a 90-degree angle.
When your shins are at a 90-degree angle, the impact forces will be absorbed by your ankle, knees, and hips and converted into energy to power your run.
9. Strike with the Ball of Your Foot
Should you run on your toes or strike the ground with your heels? The answer is – neither!
Running on the ball of your foot will ensure that you maintain the correct stride with your leg not too far in front of you. Second, pushing off the ball will propel you forward than running on your toes or heels.
Finally, the ball of your foot covers more ground area than the toes or heels making it safer and easier on your joints.
10. Minimize Vertical Oscillation
Vertical Oscillation is just the fancy term for bouncing too much when you’re running. You might notice some runners getting too much lift from the ground – the head and upper body are moving around unnecessarily.
Vertical oscillation throws the elastic energy you’ve built up with every footstrikeall over the place. It’s not an efficient way to run. You will be slower and your endurance level will be compromised.
Here are 2 tips to minimize vertical oscillation:• Run lightly and try to land your foot softly on the ground. Do the treadmill test. If every time you run on the treadmill, it sounds like someone’s hammering a wall, you’re striking the ground too hard.• Follow a 90-cadence rhythm whereby your foot hits the ground 90 times per minute. Coaches believe a 90-cadence rhythm results in the most efficient way of running. You can do this simply by shortening your stride length.
How you run is essentially determined by your natural physical attributes – your height, the length of your extremities, the type of foot – and biomechanics. Still, you should never overlook the basics of proper running technique.
Keep our top 10 tips in mind whenever you are pounding the road or the treadmill. They will make you a faster and more efficient runner. Like any other skill, with more practice, you will become better at running.
Remember, even the best runners in the world need coaches to remind them of proper running technique.
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