I recently started training for a half-marathon, and in preparation to do so, I asked a friend to watch me run and critique my form. My friend, who has been running for more than 10 years, told me there were a few flaws in my technique and recommended that I look into what a proper form should be.
So far, I’ve gathered that I need to stand up straighter while running, hold my shoulders back and down, and take the proper length strides. But what else can a runner do to improve their stride?
Don’t land on your heels. Making your first contact with the ground with your heels is great for power walking, but when you are running, it can cause pain in your back or knees. “When you walk, you keep one foot in contact with the ground, while running has a moment of weightlessness in the stride,” said running coach Alex Figuerosa. Instead, you should try to land on your midsole or forefoot, which allows your muscles to absorb more of the shock from your landing.
Take the proper-length stride. Many people try to take too long of a stride while running. Although this can feel like you are making more progress, in reality it just drains your energy levels. To find the proper-length stride, stand up straight and lean slightly forward until you are about to fall. Then take a step forward to prevent yourself from falling. The length of your step should be the length of your stride.
Look forward. It can be tempting to look at your feet and the ground while running, but you shouldn’t. Instead, look forward, toward the horizon. This will naturally bring your neck and back into alignment and can also help reduce neck pain after a run. This can also prevent you from getting bored while running because the scenery around you is sure to be more interesting than watching your own feet.
Pay attention to your arms and hands. Have you ever noticed that when you clench your hands, it tightens every other muscle in your arms and sometimes, even your shoulders? I was running with my hands very tightly clenched, but when my friend told me to relax my hands, it made a world of difference in how sore my shoulders were the following day. Another important issue is to allow your arms to move in the same rhythm as your body. Sure, running is a sport that focuses on your lower body, but by allowing your arms to swing in the same rhythm, you can use this added momentum to propel you forward.
Don’t push yourself too hard all the time. Sometimes it’s a good thing to run as hard and as fast as you can, but you shouldn’t do it all the time. Sprinting has its time and place, but you should not be sprinting all the time. “Slow down and wear a heart rate monitor to train smarter, not harder,” said Figueroa. By maintaining a pace, you can train your body to adapt to this pace, which will allow you to run farther, and eventually faster.
Just a few more tips that can drastically improve your running experience:
Wear shoes that fit you comfortably. If you do not know what running shoes to wear, head to a running store where they can help you pick out the right pair.
Wear clothes that allow you to move– nothing too tight or too baggy. Also, dress for the weather you are running in. In the winter, you shouldn’t be running in the same clothes you wear to run in the summer.
If you like to listen to music while running, make a playlist that you enjoy. By making a running playlist before I go running, I know I will have good tunes to listen to the entire time.
Plan different runs. If you run along the same path every single day, you’ll become bored. Instead, have different routes that you run along, depending on your mood, the weather, or any other factor that you can think of.