Run Like A Runner: 3 Habits To Improve Your Form, Run Smarter, And Slash Times
You did it. You registered for your first (or third, or two hundredth) race. Congrats!
You’ve paid your money, now it’s really time to pay your dues — out on the road and in the gym. It’s training time. Right now is the time to get motivated and whip yourself into gear, yet you might have no clue where to begin. We’re here to help.
While running should come instinctually, many of us often find ourselves lost in the shuffle (literally) of what running should and shouldn’t be. It is easy to jump in and get swept away in the sport without actually knowing much of anything about what you are doing. That’s the perfect recipe for failure and drop off.
Whether you’re a beginner or already a seasoned pro, it is important to acknowledge and stay focused on your most important piece of equipment — yourself.
Developing proper running form from the onset is absolutely key and a double-win for runners. Not only does it help prevent injury and keep your body off the proverbial “bench,” but it can also improve performance and times by quantum leaps. Use these 3 simple tips to run smarter, improve your form, and set yourself for long-term success that’ll help the miles fly.
Running Tip 1: Fight for the A
We’ve all seen it before — tuna foot. The guy/girl running in the gym or out on the road flopping along like he’s got fish attached to his legs. The fix: a simple toes up position during the entire running cycle. In the running world, this is called the A position.
During the down phase, the toes should be dorsiflexed (flexed up toward the shin) and aimed for a mid-foot strike. That rigidity through the foot during ground contact helps keep the force on the striking leg to a minimum, and prevents it from traveling clear up the body — that minimizes shock and any injury risk. When your whole leg doesn’t have to get involved, your toe-off is faster, which improves turnover rate and ultimately race time.
In the upward phase, the strong A position foot will guide the rest of the leg (knees and hips) forward, making the driving motion much more efficient. A floppy tuna foot makes a tuna leg, which makes a tuna runner. You don’t want to be a tuna runner.
Running Tip 2: Focus on Power Lines
Shoulder wagging and knee flopping are great ways to exhaust yourself and acquire nasty knee and hip injuries. During runs, focus on your “power lines”: a strong core, square shoulders, arms moving front to back (not side to side), and hips and knees forward. This will naturally propel you — you guessed it — forward.
Forward is the fastest way to the finish line. Side movements add pull in every direction other than where you are aiming.
A tight, straight abdomen is the core habit here (pun intended). When your core is engaged, it takes pressure off the legs, opens up your lungs, and lets everything move together in a synchronized forward direction. You can tell when a runner has their core engaged because they are running tall and relaxed through the shoulders. They are able to maintain the relaxed look because there is no wasted motion or energy and their core is keeping everything in place.
Running Tip 3: Look Like a Runner
It happens to almost everyone — you’re out on a run, you’re only halfway through, and you start to get extremely tired. And hungry. You respond by showing everyone that’s driving by (or running on the treadmill behind you) just how miserable you are.
Your shoulders start to slump, your feet start to shuffle, and your face gives off a look of excruciating pain. You know, the one you pulled when your parents asked you to take out the garbage when you were little. Bad news — that act isn’t going to get you anywhere. You still had to take the garbage out, and you still have to finish this run.
Knowing good form is important; maintaining good form throughout your ENTIRE run is the ultimate key to success.
You may not feel like a runner during grueling tempo runs or long-drawn-out jogs, but you always have to prioritize looking like one. On tough days, you can never let your form show how you really feel — you might find yourself on all fours during the last half mile. Focus and keep your posture as straight as possible.
The Bottom Line
Every ten minutes or two miles, do a self- check: A Position, Power Lines, Look like a Runner. A good way to tell that you are slipping in one of these areas is if “hard” starts creeping into your brain while you are out doing your thing.
Focus firmly on form. Developing good habits today will sky rocket your training, keep you out of the doctor’s office, and improve your time come race day.
Lauren Pantone has a BS in Exercise Science, holds an NSCA–CPT and CSCS, and is currently working as a personal trainer and track coach.
Lauren has a passion for the world of fitness that can only be found in a red head – especially the running part. She has competed in triathlons, half and full marathons, and endurance relay races around the West Coast. She sings to the tune of clean eating, getting outdoors, finding your inner roar, and living a simple life. She can't seem to get enough of her Utah surroundings but has a severe travel bug thanks to her dad and grandpa.
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