There are few things as beautiful to watch as a runner who demonstrates good running form. A runner who gracefully and lightly lands on the ground, and almost effortlessly takes off and floats through the air before landing again.
I slowed down the other day just to watch a runner approach in the distance. Every step was perfect, his body looked like it was floating through some kind of ether. He was approaching a road that had a gentle corner that went off to my right. I hoped that he would take that turn so that I could watch him from the side for a moment. My wish was granted and then he disappeared into the distance. I am not sure who coined the term, ‘poetry in motion’, but I think that there is a good chance that they were watching a runner.
So, with that in mind, here are some tips that will hopefully help you to run more beautifully, more efficiently, and with less of a chance of picking up an injury.
I have written previously about this topic in an article entitled, over-striding and injuries. You want your leg to land closer to your body, just forward of your center of gravity. I had to work on my running stride, as I grew up as a classic heel striker. My leg would pendulum forward and the heel would strike the ground. This not only slows you down, but also ups your chance of injury. At times, I advise runners to march on the spot, military style. That’s what your leg should feel like as it moves toward the ground. This means that you might have to shorten your stride and take more strides in order to run slightly quicker. You want to aim at approximately 180 landings per minute.
You don’t want to run leaning backwards with your belly leading the way. You will always heel strike if you do that. You also don’t want to bend forward as you run. If you bend forward, your hip flexors will shorten. Get stuck in that position and you will have to pull your head up in order to see where you are going. Running like this will put huge strain on your lower back and neck.
You ideally want to run tall with a slight forward lean. Running, sitting and standing tall is important. This is very different to the typical military stance that you think of. A ramrod-straight back with your chest sticking out is both unnatural and very tiring. The concept of sitting, standing and running tall means that you do not allow your body to collapse on itself. If you are sitting now, try to sit taller. This should not put you into an abnormal position, but rather into a position where your rib cage does not rest on your abdomen and where your stomach does not collapse onto your legs. Got it?
Don’t Cross the Midline.
Let’s first define your midline. Your midline is the line that separates your left from your right. Think: belly button, nose etc. Let’s imagine that you are running down the middle of the road. (Please don’t try this).
Would your feet land: A – on the white painted line, or B, on either side of the white line? Hint – you want to answer B on this one.
Allowing your foot to land on your midline is often a compensatory action caused by weakness of lateral muscles such as your glute medius. I have written about the chain reaction caused by a weak glute medius muscle.
Also, don’t swing your arms from side to side. You don’t want your hands to cross the midline either. This is running for goodness’ sake, you are not dancing to an oompah band.
Hang Loose Mother Goose.
Keep your jaw, neck, shoulders, arms, hands relaxed. This is not a cage fighting event. You are out there to allow your body to flow over the course. I don’t even believe that you should run with your keys in your hands, as that hand will be tense for the entire run. Rather hide your keys or put them in a pocket. Just make sure that you don’t drop them and have to run your entire route again to find them. (Not that I have ever been that stupid. It’s just that I have heard of people that have done that) .
Make sure that your Feet are Facing Forward.
Feet turned in or out indicate that you have some kind of muscle imbalance or tightness. I am able to assess that during our runner’s leg assessment.
Hope this all helps you with your running form.