Improve Your Running Form
Want to start running more efficiently and improve your running form but unsure where to start? Fixing your form can be tough, especially if you do not have access to a coach or someone who can provide constant feedback. There are a number of ways to naturally improve your running form by yourself, without needing access to world class facilities or people. Listed below are ten things you can do during a week to fix your form and increase your running economy that will also make you a faster runner.
Run with Good posture
Remember how your mom always told you to stand up straight? You may have listened to her if you had known it would improve your marathon time later in life. When you run, think of your body as being connected to strings, like that of a marionette. The most important string is the one connected to your head that is pulling your body straight up. The better alignment you have with your ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, and head, the more efficiently you will be able to run.
Strides after Easy Days
After an easy run take a few minutes to work on your form and turnover by doing this simple exercise. Find a grassy area that is approximately the length of a football field. Run at 80 – 90% effort from end to end while focusing on good knee drive, upright posture, efficient arm swing, and a still head. Do 6 – 8 strides per session.
Seated Running with Weights
If arm swing is a problem area of yours, this 4 minute exercise can help you make improvements. First, find two low-weight dumbbells (3 – 5 lbs) or two similarly sized cans of vegetables. Next, straddle a bench and sit with good posture. Now, swing your arms as if you are running, but with as good of form as possible. Alternate running with the weights for twenty seconds on and ten seconds off.
A factor that is more important than the way your foot strikes the ground (i.e. toe or heel first) is whether you are over-striding. When you land, your foot should be striking the ground in line with your shoulders. If you are extending your leg too far in front of your body you are losing momentum as you propel yourself forward. Focus instead on shortening your stride and having a landing that is in line with the rest of your body.
Improve your Cadence
Take a look at elite runners and watch their legs. Not only do they have efficient strides, but their legs spend very little time touching the ground. In fact, most elites have a cadence of 180+ per minute, meaning that their feet touch the ground 180 times. Calculate your cadence by counting how many times your right leg hits the ground over the course of a minute, and then double that number. If it is under 180, gradually try to increase your cadence while keeping your stride natural.
Hill workouts are the ultimate tool for people who like to multitask. Not only do they improve strength, power, and speed, but they also are good for helping runners naturally run with better form. To make it up the hill your body will be forced into a more efficient state of running: you will be up on your toes, your body will be leaning forward slightly, better knee drive will be necessary, and your arms will pump hard. Over time your body will strengthen itself to these movements which will lead to improvements during your normal runs.
If you do not have any hills on your favorite running routes, incorporate form drills into your routine. These exercises will help you develop muscle memory for the proper motions that will carry over into easy runs and workouts. Common drills include A-skip, B-skip, and C-skip, among others, and videos of their implementation can be found here.
Runners often suffer from poor form because they are not utilizing all the proper muscles. Before you head out the door do a couple glute activation exercises, such as hip bridge or chair pose. For hip bridge, lie flat on your back with your knees bent. As you inhale, bring your pelvis off the floor and hold it in line with your knees and shoulders. For chair pose, stand tall, then raise your arms and squat down, as if you are about to sit in a chair.
Run more Miles
This may seem counter-intuitive, but one secret to improve your running form is simply to run more miles. As your body adapts to the stress it will seek out ways to use less energy, which will lead to a more efficient stride.
Incorporate Speed Work
Don’t have time to add more miles to your day? Speed work (fartlek, intervals, tempos, etc.) will give you the same effect as running more miles.
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