Our Thanksgiving 5k Challenge is underway, and it’s exciting that many of you are following our weekly training plans! Some are even running for the first time ever; that’s so awesome. Because running is a hot topic right now around here, it’s the perfect time to talk about good running form.
There isn’t one “right” way to run. We’re all built a little differently; each with our own natural running style preordained by genetics and body types. Although you never want to drastically tamper with what feels natural and right, there are some minor corrections you can make to stave off any overuse injuries.
Now, for those of you seasoned runners, if you aren’t experiencing any injuries, there’s no need for you to change a thing. But! If you do have aches and pains, read on…
Head and Neck:
Look straight ahead, not down at your feet. Keep your eyes about 10 – 20 feet ahead on the course, and try to keep your neck relaxed so that you aren’t holding extra tension. Tension in your neck can cause your shoulders to raise up and the head to tilt back too much, which could be a recipe for pain or injuries in the neck and shoulders.
Try to run tall. Imagine you have a string attached to the top of your head pulling you up. You want your head up, your back straight, and your shoulders square. Avoid leaning forward or back from your waist, a common tendency when runners get fatigued. Get in the habit of doing a posture check every so often during your run. If you catch yourself slouching, use that imaginary string again to pull you back up.
The Arm Swing:
Your arms should be relaxed and bent at the elbow with about a 90-degree angle. The swing should come from the shoulder, not your elbow. It’s like a pendulum action coming from the shoulders. And be careful about allowing your arms to swing side-to-side. If your arms cross over the midline of your chest, you’re probably slouching and therefore not breathing efficiently.
Don’t bounce! All that up-and-down movement wastes a lot of energy and is hard on joints. Try to stay low to the ground with your stride. The higher you lift your legs, the more shock you’ll have to absorb during landing, which will wear you out quickly. Keep your steps short and light.
There’s a lot of controversy with how to land properly, whether beginners should use a heel-first landing or mid-foot landing. Some of this depends on your preordained running biomechanics, and therefore I don’t have a one size fits all answer for you. My best suggestion, keep your feet pointed straight ahead, and TRY for a mid-foot landing when you’re jogging, but if it just feels wrong, go back to the heel-first. The faster you go, try to get away from the heel-first landing, because they really don’t absorb shock as efficiently as a mid-foot landing. The tendency with fast running is to land on the lower ball of the foot, and this is what you want to aim for.
So, there you go, 5 suggestions you can work on to clean up your running form. Following these general guidelines should help get you running more efficiently and keep you injury free. And remember, newbies, you can follow along with our 5k Training Plans starting with Week 1 HERE.
Have you signed up for your Thanksgiving 5k yet?!? (hint hint nudge nudge)