It would be overly optimistic and even irresponsible to state that everyone can have perfect running form. In fact, when looking at elite runners with so called “perfect form”, although the way the run works for them it doesn’t mean it will work the same for you. The reason for this is every athlete has unique variables that makes them the way they are (keep reading to learn what theses are). What is perfect for someone else may be extremely awkward for you. Therefore the goal of running technique training should be to improve your running efficiency, not necessarily emulate professional runners. So lets jump in to the nuts & bolts of improving your running technique!
You As A Runner:
When it comes to running here are the most common variables that can affect your running form:
- Biomechanical factors
- Fitness and Training
- Age, Gender, Body type
- Weight of clothing and shoes
- Environmental conditions
As you can see many of these variables such as environmental conditions, age, gender, etc. are out of your control. However the key takeaway from this is the things you can control. For example through proper training you can improve your fitness level, biomechanics, and time to fatigue when running.
Mental Running Que’s to Maintain Good Form:
If you could think of just one thing when running it would be overall posture. Ask yourself: are you slogging through the miles looking down with a curve back? Fix yourself to run tall and proud!
In taking things to the next level I like the athletes I coach to do a head-to-toe assessment of themselves as the run. Here is what to look for:
- Head looking straight ahead (or about 10ft in front of you), not down towards the ground.
- Shoulders relaxed, not high and tight.
- Upright torso, not leaning too far forward or back.
- Relaxed hands, not clenched fists.
- Arms relaxed, not held too tight.
- Hips pointing straight ahead, not turned out.
- Legs beneath both with knees bent, not long bounding strides with almost locked knees.
- Feet landing on mid-forefoot, not on the heel of the foot.
Running Drills to Improve Technique:
Every coach has different drills they cling to for teaching proper running technique, I personally have seen little success with traditionally butt kicks and high knees, therefore opt for drills that focus on forefoot landing and what I call “springiness” in runners. The following are my three personal favorite running drills.
These could also be considered skip hops. To do these, let your knee and opposite arm drive up while pushing off with the opposite foot of the knee driving leg. Think of yourself as super mario in a video game jumping up to catch a coin!
Strides reinforce excellent technique amazingly, here is an example stride workout:
Run 10-20 minutes to a park or an area with a flat grassy place you can run on. Take off your shoes and run 8-10×100 yard repeats at just below all out sprint pace, in your barefeet, focusing on forward lean, forefoot strike and high cadence. Recover between each repeat by walking back to the start. Run back 10-20 minutes, aerobically, and try to implement the same barefoot running techniques while using your shoes
3. Jumping Rope:
Simple as it sounds, grab a jump rope a few times a week and jump away for 30,60, or even 90 seconds. I like athletes to jump rope before every strength sessions, not only to strengthen calf muscles and spring, but to provide a warm-up.