If new to running, it can be confusing as to what you should do to increase your running form. You’ll run into terms like swing phase, stance time, loading rate, stretch flex, etc. If you are like most runners, you don’t want to know the science behind good running form, just how to do it.
There are four things that will do more to perfect your running form and are easy to implement: Posture, Foot Strike, Stride and Cadence.
Many new runners tend to lean forward at the waist when first learning how to run. While leaning forward is part of good running form, the lean should come from your ankles and not the waist.
However, leaning at the ankles comes naturally so by focusing on running tall with erect posture you should also have the right amount of lean in the right place.
To focus on running tall, pretend you are a puppet hanging on a string. Your whole body should be in vertical alignment from your head down to your ankles. Focus on keeping your head level and looking straight ahead. This should keep your weight centered over your spine where it should be.
How your foot hits the ground is not as important as where it hits. To perfect your form, each foot should hit the ground when it is directly under your hip. Hitting forward sends too much impact up your leg and does not allow you to propel forward as well. Not only does proper foot strike produce a more fluid stride, it reduces the risk of injury.
By taking shorter strides from the front of one foot to the back of the other, you will land lighter on your feet. This in turn reduces the impact on your legs and thus reduces the risk of injury.
To practice, perform an exercise known as butt kicks. While using a short stride running, lift your knees and bring your heels up directly under your butt, not behind it as is the case with a longer stride.
Cadence is the number of steps taken per minute. Through research, the optimal number is 180. At an easy comfortable pace, you should be running at least 170 steps per minute. Running at the proper cadence has everything to do with reducing the impact on your legs and thereby reducing the risk of injury. Many runners also find that it increases their speed too.
To find out your cadence, count the number of times one of your feet hits the ground in a minute. Now double it to account for your other foot.
If not at least at 170, focus on increasing your cadence by 5% every two to three weeks until you are running between 170 and 180 steps per minute.
Practicing these four tips not only will make you a better runner, but reduce your risk of a debilitating injury that could sideline you for months.