The 10 Keys to Good Running Form
Running is a science, and those who know how to make this science work for them can dramatically improve their running form. Improved running form makes for better speed, minimizes running injuries, and minimizes the energy expended. So if you are a runner, you should read on: The tips you read here today will bring you a notch or two closer to the Haile Gebreselassies and Paula Jane Radcliffes of the world.
Stretching, Warming up and Cooling down
To get the most out of your body, it is important to find the right balance between exertion and relaxation. Only runners on TV shows and commercials can pull on their running gear and hit the course immediately, moving from inactivity to a full sprint in a matter of seconds. The right way to begin running is to ease into it, beginning with stretches and warm-ups each time, taking the time to do similar exercises while stopping for a break, and cooling down with similar ones at the end of the run. This helps to reduce injury and improve performance.
Runners should be aware of their surroundings and of their bodies’ responses to their exertion. This requires a relaxed and open attitude, and a mind clear of all distractions. It increases the likelihood that they will avoid putting themselves at risk and that they will react promptly to any changes or crises.
It is important for runners to take deep breaths and to breathe in a relaxed manner. Whether they breathe through the mouth or the nose depends on what works better for them. They should, however, learn to do belly breathing (a form of breathing that is marked by the rise and fall of the abdomen). These breathing tips make for optimal intake of oxygen, which is exactly what the runner’s muscles need. They also help to eliminate side cramps.
Mothers who always remind their children to maintain good posture know what they’re talking about. The musculoskeletal system, consisting of the bones, muscles and connective tissue, is the body’s framework, giving it stability and support, and facilitating movement. Maintaining an erect and straight posture while running can help minimize the tension and strain in the shoulders and neck. Good posture also minimizes fatigue in the back and in the hamstring muscles.
Attention to your Knees and Elbows
Your arms should be bent at a 90 degree angle or so at the elbow, and your elbows should point a bit away from your upper body. You should also lift your knees higher for greater speed. Don’t go overboard, though, as doing so would fatigue your quadriceps.
Upper and Lower Body Balance
The body is a machine. For any machine to work, its different parts have to work in a coordinated manner that facilitates balance. Where running is concerned, this means that there should be a balance between the work done by the upper body, and that done by the lower body. This essentially translates into coordinated motion of the arms and of the legs: It should be smooth and fluid.
The Ideal Stride
If your stride is too long, your forward foot will land in front of your center of gravity, slowing you down. This can also lead to injury. Making excessively short strides, which makes a runner look like he or she is bouncing, is also problematic. The ideal stride facilitates comfortable running.
The running cadence or turnover of one’s legs translates into the number of strides made per minute. When one’s stride is ideal, the cadence automatically improves because the body is working efficiently: the feet spend less time on the ground and the person uses up less energy braking and supporting the body’s weight.
Listening to your Body
The only way to ensure that you are exercising all the appropriate muscles is to “listen” to your body. This will help you recognize which muscles are being excessively strained by your exertions, and which ones remain relatively untouched. Subsequently, you can modify your running and exercising techniques to correct this oversight.
Determination and Focus
Determination and focus may be last on this list of ten, but they are crucial for the simple reason that they help runners to keep their eyes on the prize. Once a runner has reviewed the nine previous tips and come up with realistic goals for improving his or her running form, determination and focus are necessary for their achievement.