If you plan to run long distances it’s important to maintain proper running form to prevent straining or injuring your muscles. Proper running form can also increase your speed.
So even if it takes patience and self-awareness to correct your running form, the effort pays off. Your running time will improve, and you will feel less pain. Here are some tips—from expert runners and running coaches—to help you.
One of the most important things to remember when you’re running is to keep your back straight. Imagine a string running along your spine, and then ‘pull it up’ so that your head is high and centered between your shoulders. Keep your chin up, too—focus your eyes on something directly in front of you so you resist the temptation to look down at the road.
Many runners also have a tendency to tense up the shoulders, jaw and neck. This can cause strain (and pain!) along these areas. So ‘loosen up’—literally! Be conscious of gritting your teeth or bunching up your shoulders. Keep the areas relaxed.
As for your hands, imagine that you’re holding an egg. Keep them loosely cupped, and then bend your elbows at about 90 degrees. When you swing or pump your arms, your elbows movement should form an arch between your waist and chest.
Your body needs a lot of oxygen when you run, or you’ll develop cramps. That’s why deep breathing is so important—the air should fill up your stomach. You can see (and practice) it by lying down with a book on your stomach. If you are breathing correctly, the book should go up and down with each breath.
Another very important part of running form is what people call ‘the foot strike’ or how your foot lands on the ground. Ideally you should have a heel-to-toe foot strike, since that protects you from injuring your foot because of over pronation or supination. Also invest in good running shoes.
Stride is another component of running form. You must adjust your stride according to the running surface. For example, if you are running up a hill or elevated area, maintain shorter but faster strides. You can also increase your arm motion, or ‘pumping.’ Lean slightly forward, as If you were skiing. When you go downhill, however, lower your arms and try to keep a light step, so as not to put too much pressure on your heels.
Photo from singaporeathletics.com