When we run, we all feel like we look like leopards, but in actuality it is probably more akin to the internet meme. That being said, most of us probably look like disheveled heaps of bouncing mass because we were never taught how to run right. Of course, that puts the onus on us all to find out how to actually do that. Well here comes the internet to help, saving you the time and expense of a running coach (for now).
Firstly, the New York Times posted an article last August that referenced a study that concluded new runners had a tendency to properly correct their gate and other running mechanics just by running more. In other words, the body responded to the increased running activity by making itself more efficient in doing so. Therefore, you may not need to change a thing, except to get out on the road more and run.
If you do want to make a conscious effort to adjust how you run, you may want to stop doing the things that are bad for you. Like most any area of your life that you try to improve, you must first figure out the things you need to stop doing immediately, and this article from Active.com identifies some of the common bad habits of runners. Some of these are tips you probably already knew, but didn’t give enough thought because you never knew the impacts. Personally, I know that I look down way too much and I will have to focus on whether or not I am actually crossing my arms across my body.
Once you work out these energy and performance draining techniques, the next logical step is to incorporate the form and function into your run that will provide you the best efficiency. The idea of efficiency may sound like it is only for folks who are competing in the Boston Marathon, but it is a matter that every runner should pay attention to. Efficiency, or economy, for runners is the measure of how much oxygen you need to consume to maintain a certain pace.
The best ways to maintain good efficiency or economy is to have good form. Although there are an endless number of resources to find good form, the ones you will hear over and over again are:
- Land on the front or middle area of the sole of your foot. Landing on your heels, called heel strikes, slow your pace and can make you susceptible to injury.
- Look straight ahead. Look at your feet and take a deep breath. Now look straight ahead and do the same thing. Which felt more effective?
- Relax your hands and shoulders. Tensing these muscles adds extra work that isn’t helpful to your run.
- Use good posture. Good posture will ensure that a lot of your other mechanics are right.
- Use short, quick strides. Fast and nimble foot movements will help to make sure you don’t bounce too much, which robs you of energy and stamina.
I have personally been running for about 4 years and have participated in some running and combination running and obstacle events, but have never tried to apply these changes in my regular running routines. I am interested to see how they help me and am hopeful that some of these things can help you, too.