Form Follows Function – 5 Ways To Improve Your Running Form
The phrase “Form Follows Function” is a phrase associated with modern architecture and industrial design that basically means that the shape of a building or object should be primarily based upon its intended function or purpose. This principle could just as easily be related to running form. Our form should be the most effective way to get us from Point A to Point B. I don’t think it is usually wise to totally overhaul your running form because you probably run the way you do because it is the most comfortable for you and I don’t think there is any one “perfect running form.” I do, however, think that a few tweaks here and there can help you to be more effiecient, faster, and avoid injuury. This has been true for me. Here are a few tips to help you assess some of the major aspects of your form and see if there is anything that can help you to improve your running form and be more efficient as a runner.
1.) Breathing – Our body relies on oxygen to function and as we perform strenuous exercise the need for oxygen increase. This increased need for oxygen makes it important that we are as efficient as possible in our breathing so that we can supply the needed oxygen for our body to perform at a high level. While running you should be breathing through both your mouth and your nose. When you think about it this is the best way to get the maximum amount of oxygen in and carbon dioxide out. You should also focus on breathing with your diaphragm muscle at the base of your lungs to make sure you are using your entire lung capacity. To practice this you can lay on the ground and put one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest and take some slow deep breaths. If you are breathing with your diaphragm then the hand on your stomach should move while the hand on your chest should stay pretty still. Practice using this same breathing method when running to use the full capacity of your lungs and avoid side stitches. You can find a good article on “Breathing During Exercise” on Military.com by clicking here
2.) Bounce – When you run you shouldn’t be bouncing way up in the air and then coming down hard with each step. Up and down movement shoud be kept to a minimum because it is essentially wasted movment when you consider that your goal is to move forward. Sprinters need a powerful up and down stride to give them maximum friction with the ground and help them to start quickly but with distance runners this is too hard to sustain for a long period of time. You should try to keep your feet close to the ground and your foot impacting the ground should be as soft as possible. If you hear your feet loudly slapping the ground then you need to work on softening this impact. This will not only use less energy but will help to avoid injuries.
3.) Stride Rate – When most elite athletes run they run at a rate somewhere right around 180 strides per minute. For most of the rest of us our stride rate falls quite a bit short of this probably in the 150-160 stride per minute range. As we run faster our strides becomes longer and we push off harder but our stride rate usually stays pretty consistent. This can be changed though by working on speeding up your cadence or stride rate in training runs. A good way to improve your stride rate is to first determine your rate by counting how many times your right foot hits the ground in one minute and then double that number. Next, do this for another minute but focus on short fast strides and try to beat your previous count. Do this a few times during each training run and you will slowly start to improve your stride rate. Another way to do this is to find a song with a good beat just a little faster than your stride rate and then run to the beat of that song. A few songs that do this for me are “Kickstart My Heart” by Motley Crue and “The Fever” by Garth Brooks or Chris LeDoux. For some other good running songs with a good beat check out my post “21 Of My All-Time Favorite Running Songs”
4.) Arm Swing – Just like with the other aspects of your form when thinking about your arm swing you need to try to do what is the most efficient. Arm swing helps to give us balance when running but really doesn’t do much for helping to propel you down the road so it should be kept to a minimum. You should aim to keep your arms close to your chest and swing forward and back slightly. This should not be a big movement that takes a lot of effort. This is wasted energy if you are swinging your arms violently back and forth. You should also try to keep the movement forward and backward rather than any side to side movment that requires you to twist your trunk. Keep all movements going forward rather than side to side. Keep your hands in a very loose fist or with your thumb and pointer finger lightly touching each other rather than your hands being clenched in a tight fist. Also, keep your shoulders low and loose and not high and tight up by your ears. This will help you to avoid fatigue and unwanted tension through your upper body.
5.) Posture – Good posture while running really starts with your head position. You should be looking forward and keep your head up rather than hunching over. This will automatically help to align your back and torso and keep your body tall. A good way to focus on the correct position is to take a deep breath while running and notice the position of your body while you take that deep breath. This is the same position that you should try to run with to give you optimal lung capacity and stride length. Remember though running tall doesn’t mean running with your shoulders high. Shake your shoulders out and keep them loose and low. When you get fatigued during a race it is very easy to start to slouch forward and decrease lung capacity which in turn makes you more and more tired. If you find yourself doing this during a race or training run then take a deep breath and focus on running with that proper form.
Please leave any tips or tricks that you use as well as any comments.
Keep “Running Through Life.”