Did you know that humans’ incredible endurance when it comes to running is one of the rarest in the animal kingdom? In fact, it has been theorised by many anthropologists that our ability to run for hours on end is what allowed early humans to hunt for food and survive while avoiding all sorts of animal predators.
While we may not need to run for survival these days, running still confers a lot of benefits for us. Other than improving our health and fitness, running has also shown to be mentally beneficial for us as it reduces the chances of experiencing depression and anxiety. As such, not only does running increase our lifespan but also improve our overall quality of living.
Just like our fingerprints, all of us have a unique running style. Resulting from our body shapes, muscle composition, strength, and flexibility, our running forms are often difficult to change once we have been running a certain way for a while. Nevertheless, using the correct running form ensures that we reap the benefits of running while avoiding injuries.
Whether beginner or professional, we can all stand to learn a few tips to improve our running forms. As such, this article will discuss 4 essential guidelines that we can incorporate into our running routine.
Invest in Good Quality Running Shoes
Compared to other sports, running requires the least amount of gear. A pair of good running shoes, a cotton t-shirt, and pants are virtually all that you need. Nonetheless, investing in good quality running gear can go a long way in maximising comfort and efficiency during a run.
Wearing the right running shoes is the most basic condition of ensuring a proper running form. As your feet take on a lot of force and weight with every running step, running shoes are specifically designed for good shock absorption, preventing injuries, and aiding your running.
With so many types of running shoes out there, you may be confused as to how you should go about deciding on the right one. As such, here are 2 questions to help you decide:
- Does it fit me comfortably?
A pair of good running shoes should encase your feet comfortably and not cause your toes to be pinched or your heels to be slipping off the shoes. There are two ways to make sure that your shoes fit comfortably. One way is to make sure that there is a thumb’s width between the end of your toe and the end of your shoe and the second is to ensure that your feet are centred on the platform of the shoe.
- Is it suitable for the running purpose?
Running shoes are built according to the terrain and type of running it will be used for. If you are running every day, you may prefer shoes that are highly durable so that it can last a long distance. Planning to run on a trail? Choose shoes that have a strong grip on the soles to prevent you from tripping over rocks and branches.
While it is tempting to go for cheap running shoes, do take note that they may not have all the features to support your feet properly. This does not mean that the more expensive shoes are, the better it will always be. The main aim is to ensure that the running shoes you choose fulfill your requirements. If you are still unsure, you can always consult the running specialist at the running store that you are visiting.
Employ The Right Running Techniques
Now that you have picked out the right running shoes for you, it is time to learn the right running techniques. While your running form should adjust slightly according to the distance you are running, whether you are running uphill or downhill, and the speed you are running at, for the most part, a proper running form includes:
- Maintaining proper posture by keeping your gaze straight ahead so that you do not develop neck, shoulder, and lower back pain.
- Keeping your shoulders pulled back and your arms at waist level to ease tension in the shoulders.
- Ensuring your knees are in line with your foot when you lift them up to conserve energy.
- Using a midfoot strike so that your weight is evenly distributed.
Do take note that sprinting requires slightly different running techniques as it requires explosive force and powerful strides. As such, it helps to lean slightly forward while still keeping your torso tight to generate power. Moreover landing lightly with short quick strides will ensure that you are conserving energy while minimising injuries.
Knowing the proper running strategies would not result in an immediate improvement in your running style. It probably took a lot of years and a lot of distance to establish your running style and so, change cannot be expected to happen overnight. As such, it is best to make incremental adjustments so that the body can get used to running a different way,
You can start by running on the spot first so that you can focus on your running style and see where you need to change. From there, run short distances using the proper running techniques and raise the distance week by week.
Do Strength Training
Your muscle strength and flexibility also has a huge impact on your running speed and efficiency. That’s why many professional and long-term runners incorporate strength training into their routines as well. With stronger muscles, not only will you experience fewer injuries, but also better muscular control and coordination. This is especially helpful in making sure that you employ the proper running form.
You can choose to workout at the gym or go for fitness classes such as pilates, yoga, or even Crossfit. If you prefer to exercise in the comfort of your home, you can do bodyweight exercises such as planks, pushups, and lunges. The main aim is to work out your other muscles besides your legs such as your core, lower back, and arms.
As with any other exercises, make sure that you recover sufficiently between workouts and stop all activities if you happen to experience more pain than normal.
Visit A Running Specialist
If you are more interested in improving your running form using techniques that are specifically tailored to your needs, consulting a running specialist can help out in that aspect. They can observe your running form, record videos, and provide recommendations accordingly. If you happen to have any injuries – past or present – that is affecting your running style, a running specialist will take that into account as well. With their guidance, you can break any bad running habits and ensure that you are developing the correct running form.
While running may come naturally to many of us, it is still possible to make mistakes. Just like any other skill, developing the right running form takes a lot of time and effort. As long as you are willing to overcome the discomfort, you will be running in the right way in no time!
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