Author: Thomas Fieber
In my previous article onÂ remedial training , I discussed some of the aspects of proper running technique, and how leaders can evaluate their Soldiers to ensure they are running with correct form to prevent injury, and increase speed and performance.Â Since we will be working in additional volume and speed work later on, it is important beginners are taught proper techniques early.Â Here are five of the fundamental aspects of proper running form:
1. Upright body position.Â Your body position should be relatively upright with a slight forward lean from the ankles to initiate the push off the ground, and a slight forward lean from the waist to lean into the run.Â Both of these “leans” are used to facilitate forward motion, and should not be overly exaggerated.Â If you look at most of the best runners in the world, you will notice that their body position seems to be straight up and down, with their head above their hips.Â Breathing should be as natural and rhythmic as possible.Â Breathe in through your nose, and out through your mouth.
2. Natural stride.Â Your stride should be natural, and not overly long in an effort to run faster.Â You should try to land on the mid-foot, as opposed to landing on the heel and then rolling forward to pushing off the toe.Â Running speed is the end product of stride length and stride rate.Â Your stride length is going to be largely determined by your genetics, and an attempt to artificially lengthen your stride could result in a disruption of your body’s natural running motion, which will ultimately lead to quicker exhaustion, and slower run times.Â Increasing your stride rate, or stride frequency is a much “easier” and much better method of improving your speed.Â The main idea here is the less time your feet spend in contact with the ground, the more time they spend moving forward, and the more steps you can take in a minute.Â Elite runners generally average around 180 steps per minute.Â By landing mid-foot, you will minimize the amount of time your foot is in contact with the ground, and you will maximize your turnover?resulting in a higher stride rate.Â I will address this in more detail in a future article.
3. Shoulders DOWN!Â Your shoulders should remain as relaxed as possible, not hunched up under your ears.Â Keeping your hands loosely closed, and next to your HIPS will help keep your shoulders down.Â Many beginners have a tendency to bend their elbows and hold their hands up by their chests?especially when they get tired.Â This is usually accompanied by an arm swing initiated from the elbow, as opposed to the shoulder.Â Both these tendencies lead to the shoulders hunching up under the ears while running.Â Coaches (leaders) should ensure that the runner’s hands and arms are as relaxed as possible, that the hands are near the hips (not the chest), and that the arm swing is initiated from the shoulder (not the elbow).
4. Forward motion.Â Piggy-backing on the previous step, coaches should ensure the runner’s arm swing is in a front-back motion, and not across the body.Â Running with arms crossing the body will lead to unnecessary twisting in the upper body, which will in turn throw your entire body off balance.Â In short, any movement that is not forward slows you down.Â Cut it out!
5. Relax your face.Â Your jaw should be relaxed, and your cheeks should appear “bouncy”.Â Again, if you look at elite runners’ faces, you will notice that they appear extremely relaxed, even though they are running quite fast.Â This is the hardest technique flaw to fix, and will require quite a bit of conscious effort on the runners part.Â The best way to practice this is to just focus on your cheeks during your long runs.Â Pay attention to what your cheeks are doing?you should be able to feel them flop around.Â If you cannot, make a conscious decision to relax them.Â Relax your entire face.Â If your cheeks are tense, you are most likely also clenching your teeth.Â Stop it.Â Relax.Â Try to employ this technique during your sprint days as well.Â Sprinting is where this technique is most crucial.Â This will allow you to move as quickly as possible, while remaining relatively relaxed.Â This, in turn, will allow you to move at greater speed for a longer period of time (speed endurance) and will show itself through faster race times.Â Your eyes should be looking ahead of you, not down at the ground.Â Looking down causes you to drop your head, and this throws your body out of alignment.Â See the above comment about anything that isn’t forward slowing you down.Â Pick a spot about 20 meters in front of you and focus on reaching that spot.Â This will keep your head in alignment, and will break up your race into manageable 20 meter chunks.
Improving your running form takes some work, since you are basically retraining your body to perform differently than it has in the past however many years, but it is well worth the effort.Â By running with proper technique, in addition to being less injury prone, you will notice almost immediate improvements in your speed endurance.Â You will also establish a solid foundation on which to build your future endurance and speed workouts.