When it comes to running most people just get out there and go at it. I know I did. I naively chalked up being a former athlete as being enough of a prerequisite for running. However, after a few years of training for and completing multiple races I have realized that my initial “care free” approach to running was not only inefficient but dangerous. Perfecting your running form is like trying to become a better person: you have to consistently work at it. I am loving the journey and hope that this head to toe guide will help you learn how to become the strongest injury free runner possible!
Notes On Your Noggin
The way in which you hold your head when running is critical. As a fitness professional, I am constantly reminding clients that their neck is part of their spine and therefore should be aligned properly for overall good posture. The key is to let your gaze be your guide. Imagine you are scanning the horizon and most importantly relax. Try to avoid looking down at your feet and don’t allow your chin to jut out.
Shoulder Roll With It
When it comes to running, the shoulders are often forgotten. However, when it comes to proper upper body alignment, the shoulders are what keep your upper body relaxed. So think two things…loose and low (kind of like your dance movement during your favorite rap song…wink wink). As we tense up in life and consequently when we begin to fatigue during running our shoulders have the tendency to creep up. So shake them throughout and keep them level (no side to side shoulder bouncing party animal).
Invite Your Arms To The Party
While your legs are doing most of the work during your run, your arms shouldn’t being playing second fiddle. The way in which your arms swing directly affect your leg stride and ultimately the ability to drive your entire body forward. So hold your fist in a loose posture and allow your arms to swing forward and back (not across your body). They should always live between your waist and lower-chest when it comes to height and your elbows should remain at a 90-degree angle.
Core And More
The space in between your lower and upper body is the meat of any running sandwich. Therefore your torso/core should consistently remain in an upright stable position. Proper posture also directly links to your breath. The more you engage the core, the stronger and more efficient your breathing will become. So take deep breaths throughout and imagine your spine lengthening with every inhalation and exhalation.
Work Those Hips
Your center of gravity lies within your hips. If your core/torso is in proper position then your hips will follow suit. A neutral spine coupled with an engaged core allows your hips to naturally fall into proper alignment, so if your pelvis bones were comparable to headlights on a car then they should always be pointing straight ahead.
Oh My Quad
Your legs are both your longest and strongest limbs, therefore when it comes to running it is crucial to achieve and maintain maximum leg power. Your stride should be short and sweet, your leg turnover should be quick and your knees should slightly lift with each stride. Simply put, your leg overall movement should be as fluid as possible and your feet should land directly underneath your body.
Put Your Best Foot Forward
Your foot strike when running is probably one of the most important and least addressed qualities of all. Proper running is the result of the amount of push and the amount of maximum force that your feet make when lifting off the ground. With each and every strike your foot should initially land within the space between the balls of your toe and your midfoot (heel striking is strongly discouraged). Your ankles should remain flexed and as you roll onto your toes try and imagine springing off the ground like Winne The Pooh’s homeboy Tiger. And last but certainly not least, your footstrike should not be loud.