Runners come in all shapes and sizes. Some look very smooth as they glide seemingly effortlessly throughout their race and other look labored, inefficient, and somewhat clunky as they lumber across the finish line. In order to get the most from your workout and shave seconds or even minutes off your race times, proper running form can be very valuable.
Learn about proper running form and how to get results by following these 4 simple tips from competitive runner and coach Joe Muldowney.
1) Perform Relaxation Techniques
First and foremost, it is important to be relaxed. Running is hard work so if you are tense and stiff, you are making your run much more difficult.
Practice relaxation techniques during your workouts, by starting at the top of your body and working your way down. Relax your jaw and shoulders, and make sure your arms aren’t stiff. Your arms should be held in the shape of an “L,” and should be driven straight forward like pistons. Try to avoid crossing your body with your arms as this is a waste of energy.
Clenched fists also take energy from your arms so I would suggest using the ‘egg technique’ to overcome this. The egg technique involves either carrying or pretending to carry an egg (not hard boiled) in each hand whilst running and not breaking them! This is a great means of assuring relaxed hands while you run.
2) Focus on Looking Straight Ahead
Wagging your head around as you run is a large waste of energy so you should try to prevent this by focusing straight ahead.
Many people tend to look down at the ground, especially when they are climbing hills. Again, minimize wasting valuable energy by looking ahead, rather than up or down.
Once you have relaxed your head and arms, your torso will naturally follow. Now you can concentrate on your legs.
3) Adapt Your Technique for Hills
Distance runners ideally seek a heel-to-toe roll that allows them to maintain a comfortable stride. The only exception to this is when tackling an uphill climb.
On hills, distance runners must adopt a technique more similar to a sprinter and be landing on their toes.
You should lean forward with your torso, and push off with your forefoot. Use your arms to propel your legs, and, again, look straight ahead.
Running downhill is an ideal time for relaxation. Allow gravity to take you down the hill and return to hitting the ground in a heel-to-toe manner. Drop your arms to your side for a few seconds, and try to relax yourself throughout your body.
Seizing the opportunities to relax in downhill stretches will help you feel fresh for the flat or hilly portion of the course that lies ahead.
4) Achieve Proper Running Form Using Technology
Finally, living in our digital age, it is easier than ever to analyse and evaluate your running technique and achieve proper running form.
An easy way to do this is to go to a local track and have a friend videotape your running. You can then view the video and analyze your running style.
Check out the swing of your arms. Observe your shoulders and make sure you are not tensed-up in that area. Focus on your hands and make sure you aren’t clenching your fists. Lastly, move down to your foot plant, making sure you are landing from heel-to-toe in a smooth manner.
About Joe Muldowney
Joe Muldowney is an accomplished runner who has been involved in competitive long distance running for 40 years. His vast experience has enabled him to coach several running teams and he now provides a one-on-one coaching service.
During his running career he has run 54 marathons, 51 of which have been under 3 hours. His best marathon time is 2:22:54, and, at age 57, he ran the 2010 Philadelphia Marathon in a time of 2:58:56. The Boston Marathon is a particular favourite – he has completed this an impressive 16 times. Marathons aside, he has run more than 1000 road races, and logged over 123,000 miles.
Joe is also the author of the book “Running Shorts: A Collection of Stories and Advice for Anyone Who Has Ever Laced Up a Pair of Running Shoes” and his latest book is, “Personal Best.”
To find out more about Joe Muldwoney, you can visit his blog.