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What Even Is Proper Running Form? 4 Ways To Improve Your Stride

What Even Is Proper Running Form? 4 Ways To Improve Your Stride

If you become inspired by Allyson Felix's gold medal-winning performance, perhaps you're interested in checking out sprint workout videos online. At the same time, though getting into her routine is perfectly reasonable, remember to refrain from following her footsteps in order to remain safe. Here's the reason why.

Your own running form is completely individual. No matter your athletic intentions, you should follow your own form and not copy that of another runner, according to Annick Lamar, New York Road Runners (NYRR) Coach and Runner Training and Education Lead. Their running form is so personalized to them, and doing so is not necessarily going to be the best running form for you.

If you want to improve running form and the most effective way to do so differs from person to person, everyone has their particular quirks. Even if I use my runners' identical running technique, I might not provide the same exact form feedback [to them], as the physical therapist at Hospital for Special Surgery does.

Figure out your unique stride to increase your ability to run faster, farther, and more efficiently.

What Even Is “Proper” Running Form?

With that in mind, both specialists agree that there is no strict standard for determining proper running form. Generally, the most effective form is the position that uses the least amount of energy for you to cover a certain distance, Lamar says. This indicates that a sprinter's ideal form will look different than that of a marathoner.

And, interestingly, there actually slight variations in form when it comes to treadmill locomotion, according to Matsuzaki. If you choose to run outside, you have inclines and declines that are uneven. So it's not going to be the same as a treadmill gait, which is relatively level. Studies have shown that runners increase the pace on the 'mill at exactly the same rate. (Whatever!)

The Components Of Proper Form Posture

You want your entire body from foot to head to be ever so slightly leaning forward, Matsuzaki advises. However, recent research reveals that it is a delicate balance, and leaning forward too far may cause injuries. Matsuzaki suggests considering running tall rather than bending over from the hips.

Coaches will encourage their runners to focus on how they land on their feet rather than how their bodies distribute their weight.

Foot Strike

While the ideal position of forefoot strikers is the center of the foot, Matsuzaki recommends that if you're doing longer distances, it's good to strike the heel rather than the midfoot or forefoot. It's natural that the risk of injury is much greater and your performance is decreased when you slam your heel into the ground with your toes pointing toward the ceiling. Keep in mind that the course of a marathon may change from midfoot to heel strike, which is also completely normal. Invite a friend to film you running on a treadmill so that you can see your foot strike pattern.

Arm Swing

Arm swing while running is crucial for maximizing the running momentum created by your legs, because very often, this arm swing gets stiff when fatigued, and a lot of our efficiency goes away. To prevent the torque , imagine a line running down your midline from your head to your torso. If you put your arms behind their midline, be careful not to stretch them. Additionally, keep your arms relaxed (unless you are sprinting).

Joint Alignment

Your feet and knees should perpendicularly match one another if you do a front-running video. Shin and knee pain are occasionally connected with this sort of running form.

Why You Should Focus On Form

Running can be a repetitive sport, since you are always moving forward rather than side-to-side or backward as you might in other sports. If you don't have proper form or biomechanics, that could eventually lead to overuse injuries such as knee pain, runner's knee, hip pain, or stress fractures.

Stay away from repeated injuries to improve your running economy and decrease your running speed. Injuries that restrict your efficiency start to affect your ability to perform as well.

How To Improve Your Running Form

There's no need to emulate the professionals or even deliberately alter your form, so long as it's allowing you to keep going (so, being injury-prone is not a concern for you ).

Strength Train

It is not as simple as saying I look like I'm shuffling along, maybe I should pick up my knees higher when I run. For that runner, weak glutes and quads could be to blame and strengthening them could improve their shape. Another common area of weakness in Lamar sees in runners is a lack of core strength.

After joining her house health club, Lamar needs only 15 minutes a week to participate in 3-minute strength sessions. It will consist of weight-lifting exercises that focus on the major movers of running, such as glutes, hamstrings, quads, core muscles, and back muscles. Those are extremely effective elements of proper running form and running economy.

Up Your Running Cadence

If Martin Matsuzaki had been able to give a single advice that applies to most runners, it would be looking at your cadence or the number of steps taken in a minute. Ideally, it should be between 170 and 180. If you're low, let's say you're only 160 or 162, then that may be a sign that you might be over-striding, or you're losing efficiency somewhere, Matsuzaki says.

Altering your step rate by as little as 5 percent can improve your form and running economy and help stave off injuries. Some Garmin fitness trackers will keep track of your step rate, or you could film yourself running on the treadmill from the side in slow-motion for 10 seconds and then count the number of steps you take and multiply it by six.

Among the most handy tools Matsuzaki recommends making use of are metronome apps. Or, try concentrating on increasing your cadence throughout a longer run. Lamar recommends taking lighter and quicker steps, as if you're running on thin ice. It's not about going faster but instead taking more steps within the same distance. Just take your time and you don't want to go from 160 to 180 in one run!

Use Cue Words

While Lamar is training runners, she uses the help of cue words in order to help them become better runners.

  • Walk proud. Lamar instructs you to imagine a string traveling from your head and pulling it toward the ceiling.
  • Take a few moments to gently rub your hands across your abdomen. These words prompt us to have our hands graze the side of the chest, where pockets would be.
  • When we are tired, emotionally and intellectually, our eyes start to look downward, which means we arch our neck and our cervical spine, and that starts to interfere with our running form, says sprinter Lamar. If you simply keep your eyes on the horizon right in front of you, instead of at your feet, you do change your running form.

When To Call In A Pro

If you have suffered an injury or if you have suffered from repeated injuries, then Matsuzaki Recommends that you might be a good idea to consult with a physical therapist or a healthcare provider who's trained in running analysis. And if your injury recovery is at risk, this is also the right time to consider some professional guidance.

You can improve your running performance by hiring a specialist to address any injuries you have as well as help with plan development. An expert will scan your running form to see what is wrong so that it could be improved. I correlate the findings with what the runner's goals are in order to make useful advice based on them.

Don’t Forget About Everything Else!

Lamar informs us that running form is only one of the components of running performance. Biomechanics is a key aspect to running success, but aerobic capability plays a major role here, mental attitude plays a big role there as well. Matsuzaki adds that nutrition is also a significant factor, as is the quantity of sleep you get.

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