Formless Running

Salt Lake Marathon Salt Flats 100 2014 018

Running form, what’s the big deal? I can put one foot in front of the other just fine, thank you very much. I’ve been doing it a long time now.

Maybe you are one of the few people who were born with perfect running form, or maybe you are happy with the low miles you run and can’t imagine running more than ten miles a week. If this is you, then read some of my archives.

If you want to improve your running efficiency and decrease the probability of injuries keep reading.

Most of us grew up wearing thick-soled shoes, which have stunted our potential when it comes to developing a solid graceful running form. There are those that heel strike, hunch their shoulders, and cross over their midline with their arms as they run and these things cause problems as you continue on your running journey and increase miles.

But fear not, there are some simple things you can do that don’t take a lot of time which will help you develop that solid graceful running form that will take you to the finish line.

Let’s start with the easiest. First, while you are running imagine a string pulling you from the center of your chest toward the moon or sun if you prefer. This will keep you tall with your shoulders back a bit, and cause you to land on your mid-foot to forefoot rather than on your heel.

The next thing is to watch the amount of cross over that happens with your arms. Your arms should be at a 90-degree angle at the elbow with loose hands and relaxed shoulders. Your wrist should come back to your hip/waist on the back swing, and your elbow should come past your rib cage on the front swing. Your arms should swing back and forth in a straight line, do not cross the midline. If you are crossing over, you throw your hips off which trickles down to your, ITBand, knees, and ankles.

Hip and core strength are essential elements in staying injury free and having good form while running. Your hips are a part of your core, but I talk about them separately so you don’t leave them out. I have core/ab and hip strength workouts on my pages. Recent research on some of the most common running injuries, shin splints, ITBand syndrome, and runner’s knee, are showing that weak hips are a major contributing factor. If you think about it, it makes sense. As we run, we move our arms and legs opposite of each other and cause a twisting in the hips/core muscles. If the core is not stable it recruits other muscles to do its job, or it just tweaks muscles in ways they are not meant to be tweaked.

The other recommendation I give for developing good form is to work on proprioception. Proprioception is your minds awareness of where the body is in space.  There are two easy quick exercises, which will increase your proprioception. First, is balancing on one leg. Once you can do it for one minute without much difficulty, close your eyes. You can then change the surface to a pillow and then a balance board.  The other one is writing the ABC’s in the air with one foot while standing on the other. Again, once you are good at a flat hard surface change to a pillow and then a balance board.

A solid form is critical to finishing strong and preventing injuries, if your form is flimsy and weak, your body is forced to rely on smaller and weaker muscles at the end of a race causing them to get injured and causing you to be less efficient. Efficient running translates into maintaining energy throughout the race.

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