Understanding how to run properly is extremely important to your running economy. Good running form will not only help you run more efficiently, but also help decrease your chance of injury and maximize your workouts. Here’s your head to toe guide to proper running posture and technique.
Running is a straight forward motion so you want to make sure that everything you do moves you in the direction you want to go. In a very general sense, pay attention to your movements and make sure that you’re arms are moving forward (as opposed to side to side). Also, if you sense that you bounce a lot, try to stay conscious about moving forward on a more even plane.
Keep your facial muscles relaxed and keep your head facing forward ahead of you, looking at the horizon. If you’re leaning forward and running quickly your head might be pointed a bit downward, but generally you want to keep your head high and neck muscles up, as if there was a string holding your head up from the sky. This will keep you from wasting energy on contracting your neck muscles. Also, don’t jut your chin out. Starting with a good head position is crucial, as it will help your overall posture by bringing your neck and back into alignment.
Arms and Shoulders
When people get tired they tend to scrunch their shoulders up, so make sure to keep your shoulders low and loose. Also, if you tend to feel your shoulders rise and fall with every stride, make sure they stay level.
Keep your shoulders nice and relaxed while running, pumping your arms from your shoulders with a flex in your elbows that ranges from 90 to 110 degrees. If you tend to let your hands rise up high near your chest then you’ll end up overtaxing your bicep muscles. Each arm should swing in conjunction with your opposite leg stride, driving your forward. As your arms swing, they should never cross the center of your body.
If your arms or shoulders start to feel tense don’t hesitate to take a few strides to shake them out beside you. Also, keep your hands relaxed. Some people suggest pretending that you’re holding a chip in each hand so that you don’t press your hands too tight, but anything works as long as your hands stay relaxed. Clenching your fists will result in unwanted tight muscles, and while it’s only your hands, that kind of clenching will end up affecting everything else in a ripple.
The position of your torso is directly connected to the position of your head and shoulders. If your head and shoulders are well aligned, your torso should also fall into place. Your body should maintain a slightly forward leaning tilt with your torso lined up in a straight line. A lot of people refer to this as “running tall,” and it’s as simple as letting yourself get into a comfortably straight posture. This will promote better lung capacity and help you achieve optimal stride length.
Your hips are an absolutely crucial element in helping you maintain proper running posture. If your torso and back are upright and aligned then your hips will also fall into place, pointing you straight ahead. Your pelvis will naturally tilt forward a little bit, but your hips should stay forward facing and aligned.
While sprinters need driving knees, distance runners can get away with a fluid, efficient stride. Most beginning runners tend to land on their heel, a common mistake in people who often take strides that are too big. Instead, focus on landing on your midfoot/forefoot, which usually means taking a smaller stride and letting your foot hit the ground underneath your body. When your foot strikes the ground your knee should be slightly bent.
Every time your feet hit the ground you should let your foot roll forward while keeping your ankle flexed. This will allow you to utilize your calf muscles to push your forward, creating more force when you push off. The best runners tend to run nearly silently, so if you hear yourself walloping off the ground, think about maintaining a quieter, more fluid running motion.
Beyond the Basics
If you’ve got the aforementioned down pat and you’re looking to improve your form even more, you can delve much deeper into running form. There are various schools of thought when it comes to teaching people the most efficient and effective way to propel themselves forward. Two common schools of running are called the Chi and Pose methods. You can watch some snippets of the two running styles below, but this is just a taste of what these running methods have to offer. These running styles come with devotees, books, DVDs and an entire subculture.
Pose Running Method Video: