If you love to run, you know there’s nothing quite like the feel of the wind in your hair, the rhythm of your shoes on the pavement, and the amazing runner’s high you feel at the end of your workout. But if you’ve been knocked out too many times from injuries, aches, and pains, you might want to consider taking another look at your running form. Whether you’re a recreational runner or a competitive athlete, it’s easy to fall into certain habits and keep them. Here are 10 ways to improve your running form and technique in order to prevent injuries and increase efficiency.
Avoid running heels first. Stick to heel strikes on power walks only. According to running coach Alex Figueroa, “when you walk, you keep one foot in contact with the ground, while running has a moment of weightlessness in the stride.” If you run with your heels first, you can end up with back and knee pain.
Land on your midsole. Stick to landing on the forefoot, not the heels. This will reduce the effects of impact on your joints and bones because your muscles can now take the weight of your body in flight, says Figueroa.
Avoid long strides. Since leaping can reduce your energy levels quickly and inefficiently, it’s important to remember to stand tall and lean forward while running—as if every time you step forward, you are taking that step just enough to catch yourself. Consider this the length of your stride—falling takes much less energy than reaching your legs forward with every step.
Keep it short. Stick to short, efficient strides, that is. According to Figueroa, less movement through the joint means less wear and increased efficiency when you run. Shorter strides allow for reduced movement in the joints, which means a longer and healthier joint life.
Don’t get too comfortable. In your shoes, that is. If they are too comfortable, it might mean too much support is coming from your shoes—which means the muscles that support your foot may become weaker. As the muscles in your foot become weak, you can also become more susceptible to injury.
Barefoot running shoes. According to Figueroa, less is more when it comes to support. She suggests building up to wearing shoes with very little support to help strengthen the muscles in your foot and ankle. Take it slowly—one block at a time—before making the change, since it takes time to strengthen the foot muscles. According to Figueroa, foot strength can improve your ankles, knees, hips, and lower back.
Run smarter, not harder. Just because you’re running fast does not mean that it’s efficient. Figueroa recommends slowing down and wearing a heart rate monitor to keep track of your desired pace. Since your body will adapt to this set pace, you will then be able to run on pace comfortably—running faster, but not harder.
Run fast (and far). To work up to running further at a faster pace, build the run one block or one minute at a time, says Figueroa. Work on speed during your interval sets, followed by an active recovery of walking or jogging afterwards. Intervals allow you to build speed quickly as you work up to running faster paces for a longer period of time.
Ignore the odometer. The amount of time you’re running and your intensity is what matters, according to Figueroa. Knowing how far you ran doesn’t track your progress the way a heart rate monitor can, so keep track of the time and intensity.
Run for time. Figueroa suggests seeing how much distance you can cover in 30 minutes rather than timing yourself to see how fast you can run four miles. Training helps to make runs easier, so you will take to the same distance more easily, or you will be able to maintain intensity and cover more distance in the same amount of time.
Always consult your chiropractor or primary care physician for all your health related advice.
Image Credit: Running Styles by Chris Hunkeler, used under a creative commons license.
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