The human body is quite capable of running in a natural and bio-mechanically sound fashion. A reason humans experience injury from running is we’re not in good balance. Many of us need better strength, core stability and posture, and these will really help our running form. While our pursuit of good running form and technique begins with cross-training, we can start now by focusing on posture, stride length, turnover and arm swing. And watch other good runners who have what we want.
Practice and learn by watching others. Watching Coach Mike when he’s running gives the impression he is running real smooth. Almost effortlessly, without bouncing down the path. Is this something we can learn and practice? Or is this because Mike is actually an alien? Either way, we want what he has. So let’s start out and watch some real good running.
Avoid Heel Striking
First, heel striking is to be avoided. The first step in achieving good running form, is to be aware of what part of your feet are contacting the pavement. This foot plant is where foot meets earth. Are you landing on your heels? If so, you can work on it now. You’ll get better at being aware as you practice, watch videos, and work with your coaches. Usually it’s the runners who are over-striding that are having injuries, because over-striding is one cause of heel striking. Here’s additional reading in this article about the foot plant. In this article by Coach Mike, he reinforces a “heel-to-toe” transition of the foot plant.
Relax. Eyes in front, bring your shoulders back for easier breathing, and smile. Progress towards better running posture can begin now, and improve with cross-training. Watch other accomplished runners, and most of the time, they look relaxed, even while running.
Stride Length and Turnover (3 steps/second)
Like wheels rolling along the road our “wheels” too should be rolling along with very little up-and-down motion of the body. The movement of your body along the ground should be in a horizontal plane, and your center of gravity directly above your feet and ankles. Bobbing up and down is not good. When our stride length and turnover are improved over time, we can run more efficiently and with fewer injuries. With practice, achieving three-steps-per-second, you won’t need to focus on landing mid-foot. A slight bend in the support leg as your body passes over your center-of gravity it is essential.
Turnover and Arm Swing
Turnover is the rate which you are taking steps while running. The U.S. Olympic distance runners recommend three-steps-per-second for all runners. This ‘cadence’ as we refer to turnover is controlled by altering the length of your arm swing to achieve three swings per second. Now while this may sound very ‘robotic’ to beginners, let’s stress that the three second rule, is not a rule, but a recommendation for top performance. Most runners don’t run at three steps per second, but the fastest do. Work at it, try it and be more efficient less prone to injuries.
Going up, cresting, and coming down, each of these has simple adjustments to good running form. Posture, arm swing, the sound of your shoes, cadence, and how many beers you had last night all impact good hill form. We discuss this topic in our Saturday group coaching sessions, and have a more in-depth article Good Running Form on Hills and Flats.