Running can be hard on the body and is often associated with injury. Sometimes running just doesn’t feel right. If you’re struggling with running, or something just doesn’t feel right, then it might be worth paying attention to your form. The following tips for correct running form are adapted from Runner’s World Magazine and Jeff Galloway.
Head: You should look forward toward the horizon when you run. To do that, do not bend forward or look down at your feet. The focus is on keeping your body upright, because you’re fighting gravity when you lean forward (look down at the ground at least 20 feet ahead of you since you won’t lean forward to do that). Keep your face and jaw relaxed, too; don’t clench your jaw.
Shoulders: Keep them relaxed and loose. Shrugging, tightening, and creating tension in your shoulders and neck will waste energy and deplete you quickly. Wiggle your arms every now and then to keep them loose.
Torso: As Jeff Galloway says, “Your torso’s only along for the ride.” Stretch yourself up to full height with no strain from the torso. This will allow you to breathe maximally and put your body in the optimal position for moving forward.
Hips: Your hips are close to your center of gravity and will be in proper alignment if your torso and head are aligned. When you lean forward, your hips will tilt forward too and that will strain your lower back. This is what happens to those of us who experience tight hip flexors after a run. When running form is off, tightness is the first sign.
Legs: For distance running, and even shorter distances, keep your knees low. Quicker ankle action will help you increase your speed.
Ankles: Your ankles are efficient levers that have the potential for great power when you run. Put your calf muscles to work and push off on each step.
Arms: Arms should remain close to the body and swing forward and back and not across your body to minimize torso rotation. Your hands should not cross the midline of your body. The swing should be held low, elbows bent at a 90-degree angle and relaxed. Do most of the work with your lower arms; the upper arms should not move very much.
Hands: Cup your hands by gently touching your thumb to the top half of your index fingers. It’s as if you are holding a small egg that you do not want to break.
Running uphill: Try to maintain your rhythm and the same level of effort but shorten your stride and slow down as you climb.
Running downhill: This can be harder on the body than running up hill. Let the hill pull you down, but stay in control. Your stride will lengthen, but don’t let it lengthen too much because the pounding will tire your legs.
With a better running form you will be more likely to run efficiently and be prone to less injury. Try to focus on each one of these every time you hit that pavement!