Good Running Form on Hills

Why does good running form matter?

Good running form will help minimize the impact of the ground by using our God-given, biomechanically amazingly-designed body. The idea is to run over the ground, not on it. Good running form and a strong healthy body will increase efficiency by reducing wasted energy. You’ll also go faster by making good use of the potential our body-design affords. Use this information and watch the videos, and begin to prepare your body for what it was designed to do. In the meantime, while you are preparing your body to run smoothly and quietly, relax and let yourself go slower by decreasing stride-length and intensity. Fitness will come in due time.

What should good running form look like?

Posture should be erect or nearly so. Slumping forward makes gravity work against you. Head, neck and torso should be basically erect. Basicall, good running form looks just like Carl Lewis in the 100 meter dash (YouTube). He just lost, but man what good form. For another example by Stephanie Coburn, US Olympic Triathlete.

Arm swing

Aim for a 90-degree angle at the elbow, with the hands moving from the hip pocket to mid-chest, back and forth (watch videos). In the arm swing, your hands should not cross the midline of your body viewed from the front. Your arm-swing has a great deal to do with performance, and power. Next time you’re out for a run and are warmed up and have established a rhythm, try pumping your arm swing faster and see what happens. Yes, you’ll go faster. Try shortening or lengthening your arm-swing and see there is a corresponding change in your stride-length and turnover rate too.

Are your shoes making noise?

Listen to the sound of your shoes striking the ground. Are there sounds of shoes dragging or scuffing the ground? Can others some distance away hear you coming? Efficiency tends to be more quiet than straining or stomping. Some noise from running shoes striking the ground is expected, but we want to minimize it.

Rate of Turnover (cadence)

The theoretical optimal number of steps-per-minute for runners is around 180. This is approximately 3 steps-per-second, or 30 steps every 10 seconds. This applies to all fitness levels, body types, heights of runners, experience, etc. Count the total number of steps an experienced runner touches her foot to the ground while running in 6-seconds and multiply by 10. This number will be close to 180 per-minute, and it doesn’t really matter if she runs a 5K or a marathon. In a 5K she might increase to 190 per-minute to go faster, but should and will be closer to 180 in a marathon.

Relax Relax your shoulders, hands, and neck. And smile… Get rid of the tension as it wastes energy. Relax!

Breathing rhythm

Let your oxygen requirements dictate your breathing rhythm, however, you can purposefully learn to breathe in such a way as to maximize your oxygen uptake and avoid side-stitches at the same time. Belly-breathing is done by using the muscles of the abdomen to push out your belly as you inhale and allow it to retract as you exhale. The mental picture you should have is one of filling your belly like a balloon and it going flat as you inhale and exhale, respectively. Do not try to time your breathing with your steps as this may lead to you always exhale (and relax your core muscles) on the same foot which would be problematic over time.

Improve your core strength, flexibility and balance

Core strength allows for a full range of motion and proper biomechanical and skeletal alignment. This is an important aspect of cross-training. Pilates, plyometrics, yoga, balance-work, stretching, swimming, and cycling are some of the excellent ways runners and walkers can improve their running performance.

Good Running Form on Hills

Uphill Form

  1. Ideal form and posture should be the same for running uphill and flat. Don’t bend forward at the hips or the ankles and cause gravity to impact you by tiring out all the muscles on the backside of your body. As the hill steepens, you’ll use the ball of your foot naturally. Run and walk tall.
  2. Stride length will shorten naturally as you run uphill. As the hill become steeper, your stride length will shorten still more.
  3. Stride Rate = 180 steps per minute is ideal, but less is ok. Strive to keep this 3 steps-per-second turnover rate.

Downhill Form

As you crest a hill and start down the other side, don’t over-stride and cause greater impact up through your heels. If you do, it will act also as a braking mechanism. Over-striding, and heel-braking will take a greater toll on your body while going downhill. Instead, lean forward at the ankles to near perpendicularity with the downgrade. Focusing on increasing your turnover to 3 steps per second will automatically shorten your stride-length. This is accomplished by the forward lean at the ankle and shortening your arm swing. Picture yourself as a bike; don’t fight the help gravity wishes to aid you with, and keep those wheels turning round while you keep yourself in a proper downhill body-position. Focus on steering your way down around the curves in the road or trail.

  1. Good posture = slight lean forward (perpendicular to the grade)
  2. Stride Length = short to medium
  3. Stride Rate = 180 steps per minute (approx.)