If you’ve been running for any length of time you will surely want to improve your running pace. One very quick way you can do that is by working on your running form. Fixing your running form and improving your running posture is a sure fire way to run faster and also to stay healthy.
It’s important to note that fixing your running form will not happen overnight. It takes weeks, months, even years to fully adapt to your new running form. You might think that this small change will happen quickly, but I assure you that if you think long term you’ll see more success and be more willing to stick with it. My suggestion is that you focus on improving one area, mastering it, before moving onto the next area.
One of my services that I provide to runners like yourself is a gait analysis. A gait analysis will look at your running form and provide detailed insight as to how you can improve your running form. If this is something you are interested in, see below.
Spot # 1: Elbows
One very glaring spot that runners tend to have issues and is with their elbows. Ideally, you want your elbows tucked in close to your torso, but, unfortunately many times elbows tend to flare out.
When your elbows are tucked in by your side, your body moves in a more fluid and natural motion. The idea is that your arms move as pistons similar to that of the car’s engine. With that perfect front to back motion, you are eliminating the side to side motion that causes wasted energy.
When your elbows aren’t close to your body, this creates drag, which is also known as wind resistance. Excess wind resistance slows you down. Not only does the wind not help, but with your elbows sprayed out you are also rotating your body. The rotation and your lower body eventually create excess wear and tear in the form of overuse injuries (shin splints, IT/knee tendinitis, etc).
If your arms are out, one way you can work on this is my bringing your thumbs up as if you’re giving someone thumbs up. You can check your progress by looking in a mirror on a treadmill or by having someone take photos/a video of you from straight on.
Spot # 2: Head
In a perfect world, with ideal footing, you want your gaze to be about 20 meters ahead of you. This will be different, of course, if you’re running on trails or on more technical terrain. There, this 20-meter view doesn’t really apply.
A gaze of roughly 20 meters in front of you puts your eyes, neck, and head in alignment with the rest of your forward-leaning running form. If you’re running behind someone, maybe in a race, the ideal spot to look is between their shoulder blades. This spot keeps your head level and in line with the rest of your body.
The opposite of good alignment is when your chin starts heading toward your chest. When your chin starts drifting toward your chest, you put added stress on your neck, you short-change the size of your windpipe, and chances are, you’ll end up sticking your butt out in response to the chin. This diminishes any kind of power you might be creating. It takes away gravity’s help. And you won’t be getting nearly enough air into your lungs.
Similarly, if your chin starts heading toward the sky, gravity will play against you here as well. Your nice forward lean will be gone. Chances are, you’ll be “sitting” with your running form and leaning back. You are more likely to heel strike and less likely to have a good knee drive.
When should you practice elbows in and a proper head alignment? A really good time to start is during your warm up run and running drills. These times are really good because you are fresh, you can be thinking about form (and not pace, etc), and when you do them during your early portion of your run, you can then implement the good form when you start your run.
I would suggest only trying to work on one of these at a time. Master the move over a period of 2-3 months, then try focusing on the other. It is too hard to work on improving both at the same time.
While you are running, you can do a self-check every 2-3 minutes and determine whether you are running with better form or you need to adjust. Adjust on the fly, and maintain proper form for as long as you can. At first it will feel very awkward to have your elbows close to your body. Everything will feel off and different until you practice and it becomes more natural.
Fix your running form from the top down. @marcpelerin, head coach of #TrainwithMarc is here to show you how to fix your #running form.Tweet
Marc is a middle school Special Education teacher and the distance track and cross country coach who also works with distance runners seeking personal bests. He blogs at TrainwithMarc.com and writes a Friday newsletter. You can find everything Marc is working on here.