6 Ways to Improve Running Form

Six ways to improve your running form

Running form is something that can be fixed and can make a world of difference. Having the proper running form can help eliminate injuries and actually allow you to run more efficiently, and faster.

I have been guilty of incorrect running form in the past, and actually, it is something I am still focusing on.

I will share somethings I learned in college from a running course I took, as well as my experiences over the years, and then from articles I have read in the past from some of my favorite ruiners (Meb and Kara).

Keep your head up!

It was oh so common when I started out running to look down at my feet. Why? I have no clue! It is not very efficient to look down while you run, and can lead to injury.

Try keeping your head up, chin up, and looking straight ahead. Lately, I have been pretending that I have an egg or a bucket of water on my head (you can laugh). I have also been focusing on keeping my chin up, which will automatically keep your head up.

Try looking 100-200 meters ahead of you as you run.

This tends to get harder if I run uphill, but still focus on keeping your chin/head up and looking ahead of you.

Making this little change will hopefully help a lot, as well as make you feel better about your form.

Swinging those arms

This is probably the mistake I see most often. Good news is that it is very easy to fix!

When running, focus on swinging your arms back and forth- NOT side to side (in front of your chest/stomach).

Act like you are swinging your arms back and forth, parallel to your body, like you are going to punch the air in front of you (or maybe somebody if you’re mad!). Swinging your arms across the front of your body can slow you down. So, if you find that your arms are swinging in front of your stomach/chest, try focusing on them staying at your side and going back and forth in that direction.

Here is a picture of me at one of my races, displaying incorrect arm form. My right arm is in front of my chest, and I’m sure my left arm is heading that way! You’ll also notice the gentlemen to the right of me has his arm in front of him as well. Don’t do this!

Keep your arms bent at 90 degrees and parallel to the side of  your body.

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What about my hands

When running try to keep your fists from tightening up. If you clench your fists, it can lead to tension in your arms and shoulders, which is something you want avoid. Instead, focus on keeping a relaxed fist. Something I learned in college was to pretend I am holding a potato chip with my thumbs and index fingers and I don’t want it to break.

It may be a weird thing to imagine, but it has prevented me from clenching my fists.

Heel striking

Heel striking is common for beginner runners and unfortunately partners quite well with slow cadence.

Heel striking occurs when you strike the ground with your heel and then roll forward. However, this method of striking the ground is not efficient and can damage your feet. It is also harder to propel yourself forward when you are heel striking.

You may need to go to a running store and get fitted for correct shoes if you realize you are a victim of heel striking.

Slow cadence

Your running speed or pace is a direct result of your stride length multiplied by frequency. This sounds like a horrible algorithm, but I promise it is quite easy to understand!

Many new runners will try to increase their stride length, thinking it will make them faster. However, doing so will reduce your stride frequency. A good rule of thumb is to aim for 170-180 foot strikes per minute. An easy way to count your stride frequency is to count your steps for 15 second and then multiply by 4.

If you count 35 steps in 15 seconds, that means you are roughly striking the ground 140 times per minute.

You can gradually increases your stride frequency by focusing on increasing your turnover.

Next week try aiming for 40 strikes per 15 seconds, and so on.

Lastly, focus on your feet hitting the ground and trying to minimize the time your feet are in contact with the ground. The more time your feet spend in contact with the ground the more energy you are unnecessarily spending.

Where to land

Our feet hit the ground hundreds of times when we run, and where they land is very important. When your foot comes back in contact with the ground it should be directly under your hip. Why? Landing under your hip not only helps with maintaining balance, but it helps eliminate hip/knee/ankle injuries.

If you hit the ground with your foot extended in front of your body you are more likely to suffer from injury, as well as slowing down your cadence.

Practice good running form

You won’t master all of these overnight, or even in a week. If you have been running with improper running form for a while, it will take you some time to transition into proper running form.

Form is something I still focus on after nine years. Don’t beat yourself up if you occasionally slip on form, but do try and make a conscious effort to correct it- it’ll only help you out!

Like always, if you have questions leave me a comment!

I hope these help you become a more efficient runner!

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