For many runners, the beauty of running is its simplicity – we just throw on our running gear and head out for a run whenever we have a free moment in our busy lives. I love how even a short run clears my head and provides a sense of freedom and clarity to my day.
All runners know that to become better, they need to run regularly. Most of us know that doing speed work, hills and long runs helps improve performance and endurance. Unfortunately, the area many runners neglect to practise is technique. Look at the training plans of most elite athletes, and running drills designed to help hone technique and form will feature. If elite runners with great technique are practising this, then surely it stands to reason that amateur runners can benefit too? If you’re after a good reason to practise, consider that running with the correct technique improves efficiency and can significantly reduce injury risk. So we’ve put together 15 ways to improve your technique for better results in your routine here!
Don’t Run Heels First
Avoid striking the pavement with your heels—save that for your power walks. “When you walk, you keep one foot in contact with the ground, while running has a moment of weightlessness in the stride,” says Alex Figueroa, a running coach and creator of Priority1 Wellness in Miami Beach. Running with a heel landing can contribute to back and knee pain.
Land on the Midsole of Your Foot
Landing on your forefoot (instead of your heels) allows your muscles to catch the weight of your body in flight, reducing the effects of impact on the joints and bones, says Figueroa.
Don’t Use a Long Stride
Leaping forward while you run is inefficient and an energy drain. Instead, stand tall and lean forward, and when you feel like you are going to fall, step forward just enough to catch yourself. This should be the length of your stride. It takes less energy to fall than to reach your foot in front of you.
Do Take Short Effective Strides
Less motion through the joint means less wear and tear and improved efficiency during your runs, says Figueroa. Using a shorter stride reduces the movement within any joint (for running, this means the joints of the ankles, knees, and hips), and less movement means a longer, healthier life for these joints.
Don’t Wear Shoes That Are Too Comfortable
The human body works with one major premise: use it or lose it. If your support is coming from an external source, like your shoes, then the muscles designed to support the framework of the foot (i.e. the arches), will eventually fail to do their job, making the foot weaker and your body more prone to injury.
Do Invest In Barefoot Running Shoes
“When it comes to support, less is more,” says Figueroa. Build up to wearing shoes with minimal support, like NIKE Free or Vibram Five Fingers, to help strengthen and develop the natural muscular support in your foot and ankle. But don’t toss your sneakers just yet – slowly begin by running, one block at a time, with less support to gradually strengthen the muscles in your feet. Developing foot strength can help make everything stronger, including your ankles, knees, hips, and lower back, says Figueroa.
Don’t Run as Hard As You Can
Many runners think if they can run fast, they are running efficiently, which isn’t the case. In fact, Figueroa recommends runners slow down to learn how to run farther, faster. “Slow down and wear a heart rate monitor to train smarter, not harder,” suggests Figueroa. Set your heart rate monitor to keep your running at a desired pace, and then don’t exceed that set pace. Your body will adapt, and then you’ll be able to run more comfortably at this pace, meaning you will be able to run faster without pushing any harder.
o Work Up to Running Farther, Faster
Build your run one block, or one minute at a time, says Figueroa. Walk between running intervals and recover actively. You can work on speed or form and technique during your “work intervals” and then recover with an easy jog or power walk in between. Interval training can provide you with faster results in the same amount of time.
Don’t Get Stuck on the Odometer
Running three, five or even 26 miles doesn’t really tell you if there is any progress in your run, says Figueroa. Instead, track the amount of time that you’re running and monitor your intensity using a heart rate monitor.
Do Run for Time
Try to improve covering the same distance in less time. For example, set your workout to run for 30 minutes and see how much distance you can cover instead of running for four miles harder than you can safely run, suggests Figueroa. The more you train, the easier your runs will become. You can either cover the same distance with greater ease, or maintain the same intensity and run farther in the same amount of time.
Improve Your Running Posture
Hold your head high, centered between your shoulders, and your back straight. Focus your gaze ahead of you instead of straight down. Relax your jaw and neck. Keep your shoulders relaxed and parallel to the ground.
Use Your Arms and Hands
Lightly cup your hand as though you were holding an egg. Keep your wrists loose. Bend your elbows at approximately a 90-degree angle with your hands gliding past your waistline. As your arms pump along your sides, your elbows should swing somewhere between your chest and waistline. Pumping your arms at a faster rate will allow for faster leg turnover.
Change Your Breathing
Deep abdominal or “stomach” breathing is ideal for running. To practice belly breathing, lie flat on your back with a book on your abdomen. Slowly inhale as you watch the book rise, and then lower the book by slowly exhaling.
Watch Your Foot-strike
Foot-strike refers to how, where, and when the foot hits the ground. Your foot should strike the ground from heel to toe. This will help prevent injury from over pronation or supination.
Run to the Hills
While going uphill, pick up your knees and shorten your stride while increasing your stride rate. Pump your arms at a slightly faster pace, keeping in mind that the steeper the hill, the more arm motion you will need to climb uphill. Lean into the hill as if you were on skis.
While running downhill keep your body at the same angle as the hill and lower your arms. Try to land lightly on the ball of your foot.
Keep in mind…whether you’re walking, hiking or running…it beats being in a car!
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