You might think that putting one foot in front of the other in quick succession is an easy task- and for most of us, it is. But perfecting this technique and making it work for you when running to keep fit can be more of a challenge. Generally, we learn our own running style as children and maintain it throughout our lives, but because of this, many of us pick up habits which hinder our progress when exercising, or make us more prone to injury.
Switching to a more efficient running technique can help you to conserve energy as you run and reduce strain on joints, the risk of injury and the recovery time needed after runs.
Common mistakes that people make when running include:
bouncing up and down too much
landing heavily on the feet
twisting the midriff left and right
not using arms properly
bending forward, bobbing the head or slouching
By being a little more mindful of the mistakes you make whilst running, and their consequences, it can become easier to train yourself to run more efficiently.
A good posture is important in all aspects of life, not just running. However, remembering to maintain a good posture on every run is vital. Keep your head upright and in line with your shoulders and lower body. Look straight ahead and if necessary, focus on a point ahead of you at eye level. A visual reminder often helps you to put more thought into the positioning of the rest of your body.
Running upright helps to reduce strain on the leg muscles, as well as the neck, spine and lower back.
One common problem for runners, especially those trying to increase their pace, is overstriding. This happens when the front foot hits the ground further forward than the front knee. This brings the front leg out of line with the body’s centre of gravity, and has a breaking effect, which both slows down overall momentum and causes sudden impact on the feet, knees and shins.
When running, aim for the front foot to land directly underneath the knee, keeping the body’s centre of gravity aligned and reducing unnecessary impact on parts of the leg.
Try to keep your foot placements light and efficient. The more time you spent with your feet on the ground, the more energy spent on supporting body weight. Try counting your cadence- how many steps you make in a minute, and aim to keep this number as low as possible. A good cadence is normally 85-90 strides per leg per minute.
It’s not just your legs doing all the hard work when you run. Your arms play an important role in balance, rhythm and momentum. Begin by relaxing the shoulders- a good technique often comes when you relax and allow your arms to move in accordance with the rest of your body. Keep your elbows at a 90 degree angle and allow movement to come from the shoulders rather than the forearms. Thinking too much about what your arms are doing often makes it more difficult, so remember to relax and let your body’s natural momentum do the work. If you begin to feel tension in your arms as you run, straighten them up and shake it out before returning to the 90 degree position.
Breathing properly is crucial for conserving energy whilst running whilst remaining calm and focussed. Inhale through the nose whilst rushing out the abdomen, then exhale through the mouth. Keep your breathing deep and rhythmic, and try to maintain the same pace throughout. This helps you to both absorb oxygen efficiently and maintain focus throughout the entire run. It usually takes a conscious effort to breathe this way to begin with, so try practicing with a few deep, deliberate breaths before you start. As you continue, it should start to become second nature.
Following these basic tips should help you to maintain an optimal running technique. Changing habits that have been in force since childhood can be difficult, and it may take a lot of conscious effort for your first few runs. But continue to force yourself to remember and correct yourself if you start falling back into old habits. You should soon start to find that running becomes more comfortable and even that you find yourself with more energy. You should also find that injuries occur less frequently, or that pre existing ones heal more quickly. Even if you never achieve a “perfect” running technique, making an effort to iron out bad habits should leave you with the best chance of enjoying runs that are rewarding, invigorating and injury-free.
Image sourced: darkmattertagshealth and fitnessrunning