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How to Master Proper Running Form

May 20, 2019

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American runners log 2.2 miles a week, on average. That's not a lot - but, it's something if you're trying to get more movement into your weekly routine.

But if you run your miles in bad form, you won't be running for much longer. Learn about the proper running form and how you can fix your running issues below.

Learn to Spot Check

Part of the running form issue is that you always forget about your form changes somewhere throughout your run. You're not doing it on purpose, but your body falls back into old habits.

How do you keep from doing that but also get your run in at the same time? There's a trick! Decide on an object you see semi-often during your runs. Like a fire hydrant or a street sign.

Every time you get to that object, check your form. Using an external reminder instead of trying to force yourself to remember is more reliable. And it won't drive you absolutely insane.

What do we mean by spot check? You should have a list in your head, like a little mantra. Shoulders back, stand tall - and the rest of the cues we'll discuss in this article.

Say it to yourself when you get to your object and make any changes you need to.

Proper Running Form

Running without the proper form can not only lead to you feeling more tired and not getting as far but, after a while, it can also lead to injuries. You love running and you want to keep doing it, right?

Here are a few things you can think about to help you keep yourself in top form.

Shoulders

When you're running you should have "yoga shoulders" in that they're back and down. What does that mean? Take a minute and scrunch your shoulders up to your ears. Note what your back feels like.

Now relax completely and let your shoulders fall back into their natural place. That's the kind of shoulder space you need to be in when you run.

A lot of us waste precious energy on shoulder tension (accidentally) while running. It's not good for anyone and it can lead to shoulder issues over time.

So when you get to your object, remind yourself "shoulders back and down". That's the first part of your mantra.

As an added bonus to not having shoulder tension, dropping your shoulders down will naturally open up your chest so you can breathe more easily.

Stay Tall, Don't Fall

It's a silly rhyme and keeping a tall posture doesn't keep you from falling, but it's helpful for your mantra check-in. A lot of people slouch when they run, because they're tired and they're used to slouching at work.

When you work on not slouching in your running practice, it'll extend over to the rest of your life. Having better posture at work can actually help you get more done.

But what does "standing tall" mean? One of the best stretches to do for your whole body (it's great when you just wake up) is the reaching stretch.

Keep your feet flat on the floor and reach your arms up over your head. Without coming up on your toes or moving your shoulders, try to stretch upwards. A lot of it is very small muscle activation, which will move you up a couple of inches, max.

Part of feeling tall in that stretch is reaching up through your head (which you need to do while running). Pretend that you have a string is attached to the middle of your scalp.

Now someone is pulling on that string but your feet have to stay flat on the floor. Do you feel the "getting taller" from your head feeling?

You need to do that at your check-ins. Shoulders down and back, head tall.

Finally, make sure your chin is parallel to the ground. You should be looking straight ahead, not at the ground.

Use Quiet Feet

No, this isn't something we say to preschoolers, it's a running form tip. There was a st udy done in 2011 that showed when you try to land more gently, you reduce the joint-stress of running.

But again, that's a very vague description. How do you "run quieter" and "more gently"?

If you have kids, you've probably done it before without meaning to. Do you know when you're trying to sneak up on them to kiss them or tickle them? You walk quietly.

Now try to adapt that to your running form. One physical therapist says you should imagine that you're running on thin ice.

Making this possible should be easier if you're following our other cues. Your weight will be more naturally distributed and it'll make soft running a breeze.

Get the Right Shoes

Your run is nothing without the right shoes. It's worth your time and your money to go to a running store, for a personal fitting. They can tell you if the Nike Free RN Flyknit 2017 is right for you, or if you need something different.

Some running stores even have treadmills you can run on while an expert analyzes your form to help you find the right shoes and support.

Keeping Proper Running Form

If you can remember these things, and figure out what your stop-and-check reminder is going to be, you're on the right track.

After a few weeks of practicing the proper running form, your body will do it all on its own. It's like you're resetting your body and creating a "new" normal.

Eventually, you'll forget these or develop other form issues, but the "stop and check" object trick will still work. You'll just need to come up with another mantra.

For more about the running the (life) race of endurance, click here.