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Now that the weather is cooler, I’m seeing a lot more runners visiting my favorite local park. This is super exciting for me, and while I’m stoked to finally be sharing the path with other runners, I can’t help but cringe inwardly when I check out other people’s running forms.
Some people angrily clench water bottles or smartphones in their fists while they run, while others look as if they took running lessons from the dancing kids in A Charlie Brown Christmas. While half of me can’t help but giggle and wonder what on earth these people are thinking, the other part of me feels bad that these people aren’t gaining much from their workouts. Poor running form not only hinders your performance, but increases your risk for muscle soreness and injury.
What that said, here are 5 ways to improve your running form.
1. Keep your head straight and your eyes forward
Avoid keeping your head titled down or up for long periods of time, since doing so can result in neck strain and hinder your breathing. Plus, keeping your head straight and your eyes forward will help you stay focused on your run, and prevent you from running into things, such as poles or stop signs (yes, I’ve seen it happen!).
2. Relax your shoulders
Focus on relaxing your upper torso and shoulders. Your shoulders should be stacked directly above your hips. Don’t hunch your shoulders or raise them up toward your ears, since this puts pressure on your lower back and leads to neck aches and pounding headaches later on. If you catch yourself hunching up your shoulders, take a break along with a few deep breaths, and get back into it with relaxed shoulders.
3. Don’t clench your fists!
Many runners clench their fists, which is a major no-no! Clenching fists can lead to tense arms and shoulders, and eventually lead to injury and muscle soreness (and not the accomplished, bad-ass, lactic-acid kind of soreness). Keep your hands relaxed and open while you run, and whatever you do, don’t hold items in your hand such as water bottles, smartphones, iPods, etc.
Speaking of which, did you know fanny packs are back in style? Instead of holding your phone or water bottle while you run, put it in a comfortable sports fanny pack like this one from Skywoo (they’re actually called running belt waist packs). These waist packs are far more efficient than an arm band for your phone, since they can be perfectly centered on your waist and won’t contribute to poor alignment or uneven weight distribution while you’re running.
4. Move your arms forward and back – not sideways across your body
As you run, your elbows should be at 90-degree angles and your arms should swing forward and back on each side of your body. This position also increases your running speed and endurance. Avoid moving your arms back and forth from side to side in front of your body. This crazy running position will actually slow you down and wear you out faster (and also makes you look like a clown or funny dancer!).
5. Watch your foot strike
The “proper” way to strike your feet continues to be a pretty big debate among runners, so I won’t get too specific here. The key point I want to stress in regards to foot strike is to focus on landing softly, gracefully, and quietly. The best way to reduce pressure on your ankles and knees is to land on the midfoot or forefoot, then roll onto your toes and pop off the ground, which is supposed to be the most natural running form. This is the foot strike that feels most comfortable for me, personally, and I’ve never experienced any running-related injuries using this form.
Do you have any other tips and tricks that contribute to good running form? Let me know!