Proper Running Form–Does it Really Matter?

runner

Before I began marathon training or became a personal trainer, I never paid much attention to how I ran.  It was as simple as one foot in front of the other, I figured.  Not until I got injured did I even consider examining my running technique.  Improper form, over time, can cause unnecessary aches and injuries.  Here are some things to pay attention to on your next run:

1. Where are your feet striking the ground?  It should be mid-foot.  From there, quickly roll up to your toes before your feet spring off the ground.  If you can hear your feet loudly strike the pavement, try to land more softly.

2.  Is your stride too long?  If you’re not a sprinter, you don’t need to worry about lifting your knees high off the ground or having a long stride.  For endurance running, bend your knees slightly, with a short stride, for maximum efficiency.  Your feet should land right underneath your body as you run.

3.  Are your abs engaged?  This area may often be overlooked, but tightening your abs while running can help keep your pelvis stable and prevent lower back pain.  In addition, don’t lean too far forward as you run.  This tilts your pelvis forward, which adds lower back pressure, throws your body alignment off and can cause injury.  Keep your torso straight and tall.  I had this issue at one point.  When I started to work on running “tall” and engaging my abs, it really helped with the pain I was experiencing.

4. Are your shoulders hunched up?  Pay attention to what your shoulders are doing.  You want them down and back–not tightly hunched up and forward.  You want them stacked over your hips for proper alignment.  If you feel them starting to creep up during your run, take a deep breath and shake them out.

5.  Are your arms swaying in front of your body?  I notice people doing this A LOT.  Your arms should be moving back and forth at your sides, and should not cross in front of your body.  They should be bent at 90 degree angles.  Also, watch for tension in your hands–They should not be clenched into fists, but  “cupped”–with your fingers partially bent.

6.  Is your head tilted back too far?  Make sure your head is not tilted too far back (or forward).  You should be looking straight ahead of you.  This will keep your posture in alignment and help you to run more efficiently.

If you’ve been running the same way for many years, it can be very difficult to change aspects of your running form.  I’m still fine-tuning my technique–I take a mental note of my form a few times during each run, and adjust accordingly.  I can say that just a few small tweaks have helped improve my aches and pains a lot, so I feel that it’s definitely worth the added effort–especially if it helps me to run for decades into the future.

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