Running is one of the most accessible forms of exercise, all you need are a pair of shoes and a place to run! But it is also quite hard on the body, especially if done incorrectly. Getting into the correct running form requires patience and practice, but it is well worth it even if you۪re just going for a casual jog.
Why is proper running form important?
Proper running form protects your body from getting injured, and helps you run more efficiently and effortlessly. The better your running form is, the easier running will feel, especially once you start feeling fatigued. This is why paying attention to your form is important for beginners looking to create healthy running habits. While everyone۪s body works uniquely, there are a few tips on how to achieve proper running form, from your head all the way to your toes. Remember to take it slowly when working on your form - drastic changes might cause even worse injuries! The best way to go forward is to firstly just pay attention to your natural stride and figure out where you can start trying mini changes. Experiment gently and if something doesn۪t work, that۪s ok!
When running, keep your head straight and look forward. Avoid tilting your head up or down. Focusing your eyes on the horizon will promote a natural alignment by straightening your back and neck. Try to keep your jaw loose and don۪t let your chin stick out. Your ears should be in line with your shoulders, not in front of them.
Keep your shoulders relaxed and square. As you run your shoulders might tend to creep up as if shrugging and you might hunch over. This means your shoulders are tensing up. Shake them out and release the stress and tension that is holding you back. Open up your shoulders by pulling them back and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Running tall with your shoulders back allows for maximum lung capacity, allowing easier breathing during exercise.
Arms & hands
Your arm movement can help you run faster or slower. Arms should be bent at 90 degrees, and kept between the level of your chest and waist. Your arms should swing back and forth from your shoulder joint, not your elbow joint. Make sure your arms are moving straight forward and back and not crossing your body, which would cause you to lose momentum and tire you out. Keep your elbows close to your sides and not pointing outwards.Your hands move from chin to hip, which helps propel your body forward. Keep your hands and wrists relaxed while running instead of clenched in a tight fist. Gently cup your hands as if you are holding an egg or a butterfly - you definitely don۪t want to crush these!
Torso & waist
Your torso should be straight so that you are running in an upright, tall position. Make sure you۪re not hinging over or leaning backwards. Leaning back places pressure on your back, hips, and knees because your stride is overly elongated. Hunching too far forward causes you to use a high impact stride leading to back and knee injuries. Your waist should work in tandem with your hips to propel your body forward. You will minimally lean forward from your ankles and not from your waist.
When you۪re running, you want your hips to lean slightly into the run instead of having them completely straight. The lean should come from the hips and not the shoulders. This means your torso will be slightly in front of your hips, which lets you use your glutes to derive the most power out of your strides.
For beginners, keep your knees fairly low to develop an energy efficient stride and form. Additionally, the knees should be slightly bent while running to absorb the shock that occurs when your feet hit the ground. Your knee should be in line with the middle of your foot so that when your foot hits the ground, it is right underneath the knee. Focus on lifting your foot, not your knee, a little higher if you feel like you۪re shuffling when tired.
Everyone has a slightly different gait and stride, but the most important thing to remember with your legs is to keep your shin being as close to perpendicular as possible when the foot hits the ground. This allows you to use your ankle, your knee joint, and the hip joint all at the same time to both absorb shock and then create energy. Make sure your legs don۪t extend in front of your body but instead have your feet land underneath you. You can achieve this by paying attention to your stride and making sure they are not too long.
If you naturally land on your heels or toes, rather than trying to change your stride, it would be perhaps better to get shoes suited to your running style to avoid injury. Your feet should land directly under your body, and use them to push off (instead of just lifting them). Let gravity pull your feet to the ground instead of driving them down yourself - save that energy for pushing up! Ideally, you will land lightly on the mid-foot area, then roll your foot forward to the ball of your foot and finally to your toes to spring off. It may seem like a lot to take in, but take it one piece at a time. Try focusing on one area each running day instead of doing everything at once. When you۪ve mastered one body part, move on to the next and build your form gradually. With time and practice, you will piece it all together and run with improved form without even thinking about it. Good luck!