When you work on your running form, not only will you get to run faster and more comfortably. You can also help reduce stress and avoid injury. Here’s a step by step guide on how to get that proper form for running.
Do a gait analysis
The first step to optimizing your running form is analyzing how you tend to move in the first place, which is called a gait analysis. With this method, biomechanical abnormalities in the way you run or walk would be identified. As a result, you’ll learn about underused or overused muscles which can lead to inefficiencies or worse, injury.
When you’re running, you should be hitting the proper Z shape. This Z shape is visible when you’re viewed from the side. This shape is formed by two angles — the hip joint and the ankle joint when your body is at a position in which a leg is just about to step off the ground.
For a perfect Z angle, the angle of your hip extension should be roughly the same as your ankle dorsiflexion angle (which occurs when you lift a foot to your shin as you are running).
A professional analysis can be done by a physical therapist. Although if you’d like to get started, you could attempt to do it yourself by recording your runs. You can check your Z angle by freeze framing a shot of you running.
To get your own Z angle, just draw a line through your hip joint which is parallel to the top of the pelvis. Then draw another line down the stance leg, spanning the hips up to the ankle. Finally, draw a line from the ankle joint to the toes. The lines should form a Z-shape if you’re running with proper form.
Learn how your foot strikes and rolls off the floor
The first step is to determine the way in which your foot strikes and leaves the floor as you run, which are aspects of pronation. Pronation refers to how your foot moves from side to side in every gait cycle. It’s important that you know this so that you can get gear that would help compensate for your style. It would also help you correct your form.
On normal pronation, your foot rolls inward only a little bit with every step, just when you strike the floor, and then rolls outward a bit as you step off.
When there is overpronation, the ankle tends to roll too far inward and downward, which leads to the tip of the foot (which comprises the second toe and the big toe) to do a lot of heavy lifting.
When there is underpronation, also called supination, the foot does not pronate adequately when you step off.
Overpronation and supination cause strain on various parts of the foot and leg, leading to pain and injury.
Many shoe experts in running specialty stores can help with this. They make use of video recording tools that keep track of the way you run for a specific period of time, usually 20 seconds. There is also software that may be able to help you see your pronation for yourself.
Check your arm movements
Many runners make the mistake of swinging their arms side to side, which renders them unable to efficiently breathe. Some even tend to hold their hands near the chest area, which causes them to feel more tired. The ideal position is with the hands at waist level, at the spot where they could lightly brush the hip area. The elbows should be at the sides, with the arms at a 90-degree angle. When moving, you should rotate the arms at shoulder, as opposed to the elbow. That way, they swing forward and backward and not side to side.
As much as possible, your arms should not go above the waist area. Don’t worry about going a little over it – just don’t go way up. It’s human nature to want to move the hands toward the shoulders, especially when you’re getting tired. When you do notice that you’re doing this, just let your arms fall to your sides and do a little dance — shake them out.
Look straight ahead
Keep your head up and your back straight. Look forward. Do not keep your gaze at the ground.
Running with your eyes looking ahead is not just the ideal running form; it’s also safer because it lets you see what’s on the track.
Observe if your head is jutting forward when you’re running. This should not be the case. Running with your head jutting forward will put a lot of stress on your neck and shoulder muscles, which could cause pain and injury. Keep your neck aligned. The ears should be in between your shoulders. Do not lean forward.
Keep your posture straight and erect, but relaxed.
This might seem like a tall order, but it’s really not.
Shoulders should be level and dropped – they should not be tensed up, hunched over, or pushed toward the ear. This is because when they’re tensed up and rounded too far forward, you’ll have difficulty breathing. Periodically check if your shoulders are tensing up. If they are, just allow them to drop. That’s how you relax.
Keep the pelvis at a neutral position. Do not learn forward or back at the waist level. Push your chest out when you notice yourself slouching.
Ensure upkeep of your running gear
When you do get a good pair of shoes for running, you need to replace them after about 300 to 350 miles (or 482 to 563 kilometers). This is because shoes that aren’t in good condition will no longer have the structures that support good running form.
It’s recommended that you have at least 2 pairs of shoes because rotating another pair in will improve the lifespan of your shoes. This happens when you allow a pair to decompress and dry out in between runs. Of course, proper running shoes are not cheap so if you’re starting out, you just get another pair when the first one is about halfway through its lifespan.
There are so many things to gain and nothing to lose when you know how to get proper form for running. Not only does it keep injury at bay. It helps reduce risk of fatigue, so you get the most out of every run.