Welcome to my weekly series, Training Tip Tuesday. Each week I will focus on a different aspect of training – strength, cardio, flexibility, balance, etc.
Today’s Training Tip
Running with good form
If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fit It
When working with a new runner, I casually check out their form while they’re running, but without making it obvious. It’s amazing how self-conscious people can get and totally change their stride if they think they’re being critiqued.
Unless there’s something glaringly wrong, or the person keeps getting a repeat injury, I usually don’t recommend making major changes. Using the adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” I mostly only make minor tweaks. Old habits die hard, and trying to make major changes to a seasoned runner’s form can result in an entirely new set of injuries.
When working with younger runners, especially those new to running, I’m more willing to work on their form and make significant changes. These new runners haven’t had a chance to form habits, either good or bad, and corrections to their running form can be changed with relative ease.
Four Components of Running Form
Running form can be broken down into four basic components:
- • Posture
- • Stride length
- • Arm position and swing
- • Foot strike
• Posture – Runners should stand tall with their core engaged, keeping their back straight (not rounded) while pivoting forward slightly from the hips to utilized gravity’s pull. Runners should breath comfortably while looking ahead about a car length.
• Stride length – Most average sized runners can expect to have 160 to 180 steps per minute. Over-striding causes the body to stay airborne longer resulting in a harder landing, while under-striding results in a shuffle. Since both over and under-striding result in inefficient running, these runners can correct their stride simply by changing up their cadence to the recommended 160 to 180 steps per minute.
• Arm position and swing – The upper body should be relaxed with the shoulders down, the arms bent to 90° at the elbows, and the hands loosely cupped as if holding a fragile item. Arm swing should be front-to-back, not side-to-side.
• Foot strike – The desired foot strike for a runner is that of an active foot where the heel and mid-foot hit the ground first before rolling forward to push off from the toe. For best form and optimal efficiency, the foot should land closer to the body, as opposed to reaching farther away leading to exaggerated heel striking.
Running Up Hills
When running up hills, your running form will need to be adjusted. You’ll want to shorten your stride slightly and engage your core even more. Keep your head neutral and gaze ahead, not at your feet.
Running Down Hills
Just like with running up hills, when running down hill you’ll need to adjust your form from that of running on a flat surface. Again, you’ll want to engage your core and shorten your stride slightly allowing for a faster turnover. Pivot forward at your ankles and hips to allow your body to be perpendicular to the ground while using your arms to keep your balance (they shouldn’t be pumping forward and back, but ready to make adjustments as your body moves). Land on your mid-foot and parallel to the ground as opposed to heel striking (over striding). Gaze about 10–15 yards in front of you so you can see where you’re headed.
Let gravity do its thing and pull you down the hill. When the urge to brake happens, relax your running muscles, and as long as you feel you have control of your body, allow your pace to speed up. This is a great opportunity to overtake your opponents who aren’t savvy to taking advantage of the perks of down hill running.
Keep Form in Check, Even When Getting Tired
Keep in mind that it’s super easy to revert back to poor running form as you get tired. I used to totally let my core relax, and slump forward during the later miles of my longer training runs. As soon as I did that, everything else started falling apart, and I had to consciously focus on keeping that tired/lazy form at bay.
- • Have you had your running form assessed? ~ Yes, many years ago.
- • Do you have any running form quirks? ~ I naturally over stride and have to keep myself in check, and as I mentioned, I tend to slouch when I get tired.
- • What other training tips would you like for me to cover?
Form is so important and yet it’s hard to change. Naturally I have a fast cadence, short quick strides..
I never ran before I learned what to do so I think my form is pretty good until I get tired and then it all falls apart. Yup I slouch but I catch myself often because I am aware.
It’s good that you catch yourself when you get tired. A lot of people don’t, including myself in my early years of marathon training.
Yes, I’ve had several assessments. My last two were with super-high-tech gadgets – but the result could have easily been assessed by just running behind me, ha!
My issue is “weak glutes” – but this happens when the assessor asks me to go at a very slow pace. The faster the pace, the easier it is to maintain a good form.
I hear you, weak glutes/hips are such a common malady for runners.
I totally feel like I change my form when someone is evaluating it. I have tried to change it a few times but then end up causing a problem somewhere else. Ha. Thinking I am just too old to change it!
I, too, have tried to tweak a few things in my own running form over the years and it never ended well.
I’m constantly reminding myself to not swing my arms side to side across my body. I find that when I get tired, my form starts to go, and my arms are the first things to lose focus.
I think I’m swinging my arms front to back, but race photos don’t lie. LOL
A couple of things have helped me with my form–taking selfie videos, which give me a visual of what I actually look like as opposed to what I think I look like; and pool running, believe it or not, has really helped me with my form. The coaching includes a lot of reminders about form and the arm movement “like a pendulum”, which has really changed how I run!
I agree, shooting videos is a great way to critique our own form. That’s great that pool running has helped your form so much.
If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It , Beautiful!!! So Much To Be Said Regarding Less Is More
Less is more indeed!
Great post – I definitely start “slouching” when things get hard on a long run, and I have to tell myself (even out loud sometimes) to tighten my core and become upright. With hills, same story – I shorten my stride but over-lean forward
It’s so easy to slouch as we get tired. Ask your friends to give you a friendly reminder if they notice you slouching – that’s what I do!
I don’t think I’ve ever had my running form assessed. Honestly cannot remember. I have noticed that when I get tired, I drag my feet and run slower instead of picking them up. Sometimes I hunch my shoulders when I get tired and then end up with a sore back/shoulders.
Your description of how you run when you’re tired sounds exactly like how one of my good friends would look at the end of a long run. We’d remind each other to check our form.