If you want to improve your running form, you should understand the importance of an excellent running condition before training.
Running is an excellent form of exercise that can improve your overall health and fitness levels. It also helps burn calories and build muscle mass. However, there are specific running techniques that can help you run faster and longer without hurting yourself.
Improve Your Running Form
If you want to improve your running form, you should improve your running posture, breathing, and foot strike. These three factors will determine whether you run injury-free or not.
This is the first part of a series on improving your running form. In this article, we will look at how to improve your stride length and cadence by using an accelerometer and some other tips for runners who want to run faster without spending hours in the gym or buying expensive equipment. We’ll also talk about what you can do if you have trouble with overuse injuries like plantar fasciitis.
Step 1 – Use An Accelerometer For A Better Stride Length And Cadence
An accelerometer is just a fancy pedometer that measures vertical and horizontal acceleration instead of counting steps. It works much better than traditional step counters because it considers whether or not you are standing still or walking upstairs. The best thing about them, though, is they don’t cost very much, so you can use one every day and keep track of all kinds of data. I’ve used several different models, but my favorite is the Fitbit Charge HR, which works great for me.
- Use built-in GPS to see your pace and distance on screen during outdoor runs, rides, hikes and more and see a workout intensity map in the app that shows your heart rate changes along your route
- With Active Zone Minutes, feel a buzz when you reach your target heart rate zones during exercise, and celebrate when you earn extra minutes outside of exercise
- Use 24x7 heart rate to track resting heart rate & better measure calorie burn. Syncing to mobile devices requires Bluetooth LE and internet connection. Syncs with Mac OS X 12.2 and up, iPhone 5S and later, iPad 5 gen. and later, Android 7.0 and later
- See your SpO2 nightly average and range on wrist, and view trends over the past week in the Fitbit app (SpO2 is not available in all markets. The SpO2 feature is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition or for any other medical purpose)
- Track your skin temperature each night to see how it varies from your personal baseline (Not available in all markets. Only available in the Fitbit app and only displays variation. Not intended for medical purposes)
Last update on 2021-10-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
The basic idea behind measuring stride length and cadence is that you should cover more distance per unit time when you take long strides. If you’re taking short strides, you’ll need to move slower to make up for it. This means that if you increase your stride length, you should see speed improvements. So let’s start there!
Step 2 – Increase Your Stride Length With These Tips
The most obvious way to increase your stride length is to practice striding longer distances. But since you probably won’t be doing any formal training program, you might find yourself wanting something else. Here are some ideas:
1) Run On A Track Or Path Instead Of Just Going Straight Downhill
If you live near a park, try going out for runs where you aren’t allowed to go downhill. Many trails around town are flat and easy enough to run along even if you haven’t done any trail-running before. Even if you never plan on actually racing anyone, being able to run uphill and down quickly gives you a lot of extra flexibility. Plus, you can always change directions later if you decide you’d instead head back home after finishing your workout.
2) Try Doing Some Sprinting Workouts
Sprint workouts are perfect for increasing your stride length because they force you to shorten your stance while maintaining high speeds. They work exceptionally well if you already jog regularly because sprints tend to build muscle strength too. If you feel comfortable jogging fast, try adding a few intervals of 30 seconds each followed by 3 minutes of rest. Start slow until you reach 60% of your maximum heart rate. Then gradually pick up the pace until you finish at 100%. Don’t forget to stretch afterward!
3) Do Stair Climbing Exercises
Stairs are another exercise that forces you to shorten your stance during climbing. Since stair climbers usually involve ascending multiple flights of stairs, they’re perfect for building leg muscles quickly. When you climb stairs, focus on keeping your knees bent slightly throughout the entire ascent. Keep your legs straightened and locked together once you hit the top floor.
4) Practice Jumping Rope
Jumping rope is a fantastic exercise for developing explosive power and jumping ability. As soon as you land from a jump, immediately begin bouncing forward again. Repeat this process continuously for 20-30 jumps until you’re ready to add weight to the ropes. At that point, switch to skipping ropes. Skipping requires less coordination but builds endurance quite nicely. Once you master those two exercises, you can combine them to create a hybrid routine called “jump skips.”
5) Focus More On Vertical Movement Than Horizontal
When you run, your upper body naturally moves forwards and backward. However, many people struggle to maintain proper posture while running.
When you do so, you end up mainly moving horizontally instead of vertically. The best thing you can do to improve your form is to concentrate on vertical movement. That will help keep your spine erect and prevent unnecessary strain on your lower back. It also helps with breathing, which we’ll talk about next…
6) Breathe Properly While You Exercise
As I mentioned earlier, one of the most prominent problems runners have is improper breathing. Many people hold their breath or gasp for air while they’re exercising. Not only does holding your breath cause your lungs to fill with carbon dioxide, but it makes it harder to breathe properly. Studies show that athletes who inhale deeply through pursed lips experience better running performance than those whose mouths remain open.
To avoid these issues, try practicing diaphragmatic breathing. Simply put, diaphragmatic breathing involves drawing in the air into your abdomen using your stomach muscles. Most people think that abdominal breathing sounds weird, but trust me, it works wonders for improving your overall fitness level. And don’t worry; you don’t have to get fancy like yogis to achieve great results. All you need to do is draw in the air slowly and steadily without forcing anything.
7) Correct Running Form
The final tip I want to share with you today concerns how to improve your running form. This topic has been covered extensively elsewhere on our site, so that I won’t go over all the details here. Instead, let’s take a look at some common mistakes that most beginners make when trying to improve their running form:
Common mistakes for beginners
1) Improper Posture
Many people assume that standing tall is an essential part of improved running form. But there’s no evidence supporting this claim. In reality, poor posture hurts your chances of achieving optimal speed. For example, research shows that individuals who sit upright for extended periods suffer more injuries than those who slouch. So if you’d relatively not risk injury, then try sitting down whenever possible.
2) Too Much Weight Bearing Through The Foot
If you’ve ever tried doing barefoot drills, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Barefoot training focuses heavily on shifting weight from heel strike to toe landing. By doing so, you develop much stronger ankles and feet. Unfortunately, though, many runners mistakenly believe that heavy foot contact is necessary for faster times. Lighter foot strikes produce greater acceleration due to increased ground reaction forces, generating higher energy expenditure levels.
So if you’re interested in improving your running style, then be sure to practice lightening up your steps. Try alternating between heel striking and mid/forefoot striking techniques.
Doing so should allow you to run faster without sacrificing comfort.
3) Excessive Stride Lengths
Most runners tend to stride too far forward during each step cycle. As a result, they often land on their heels, resulting in leg fatigue and pain. If you feel you are constantly fighting against gravity, you may benefit significantly by lengthening your strides. Experimenting with different lengths can provide valuable insight into whether or not you’re striding correctly. However, remember that longer strides mean slower speeds, so choose them wisely.
4) Poor Knee Flexibility
Some runners lack flexibility in their knees because they spend too much time squatting and lunging. These movements place undue stress on both the hip joints and quadriceps muscle groups. Although squats and lunges are highly beneficial exercises, they must be done carefully. Don’t perform any activity involving deep knee bends until you’ve consulted with your doctor first. Also, never use weights heavier than 10 pounds unless instructed otherwise by a qualified trainer.
5) Overuse Of Stretching Methods
Stretches aren’t bad per se, but they shouldn’t become a regular habit. Some stretching methods involve pulling excessively tight muscles, causing soreness and even injury. Others require too much effort. When choosing stretches, always focus on ones that target specific areas of weakness.
6) Lack Of Strength Training
The majority of athletes don’t have enough strength training experience under their belts. This makes it difficult for them to control their bodyweight when sprinting. Consequently, they end up using inefficient movement patterns, such as excessive arm swing. Instead, concentrate on developing strong core musculature before attempting to reach a proper running technique.
7) Bad Shoes
Shoes play a crucial role in how well we run. They need to fit correctly, providing adequate support while allowing us to move freely. Furthermore, shoes must also be comfortable. You’ll want to avoid wearing anything that causes blisters or chafed skin.
8) Not Taking Enough Rest Between Runs
When performing interval workouts, rest intervals are critical. Without sufficient recovery, our bodies will continue to tire out over time. Therefore, make sure to take at least one day off after every three-day workout regimen.
9) Failure To Warm Up Properly
Warming up before a race or other intense activity has been proven to reduce the likelihood of injury. It helps prepare our bodies for physical exertion by increasing blood flow throughout the entire system. Additionally, warming up allows us to regulate our heart rate and breathing better.
10) Neglecting Nutrition And Hydration
Although these two factors seem like simple things to overlook, they can seriously affect performance. Many endurance athletes fail to eat regularly, leading to low glycogen stores and depleted electrolytes. Meanwhile, dehydration hinders proper oxygen delivery to working muscles.
Footstrike: How To Run Faster
The correct foot strike pattern can help you improve your times significantly. Learn how to run fast by understanding these 4 different styles of footstrike.
Running is an excellent form of cardio fitness. But if you’re looking to maximize its benefits, there are some key points to consider. The most important thing to do is to learn what foot strike works best for you. There are four main types of strikes – heel striking, midfoot striking, forefoot striking, and toe striking. Each type has its pros and cons, making it essential to know which method suits you best.
This is probably the most common way to land when running. Many people naturally default to this type of strike without thinking about it. While this might work fine for recreational jogging, it doesn’t offer optimal results when doing speedwork.
Why? Because heel striking places more weight on the rear portion of your feet. That means less energy goes towards propelling you forwards. Plus, your calves and Achilles tendons get overloaded quickly, putting extra strain on those structures.
So why should you change your strategy? Well, research shows that switching from heel striking to another type of strike improves your overall running efficiency. Specifically, midfoot strikers enjoy a greater running economy. This economy of motion leads to lower impact forces compared to heel strikers.
If you prefer to stay away from heel striking altogether, try practicing midfoot striking instead. Midfoot strikers typically put all of their weight onto the ball of their foot rather than the heel. This makes them feel lighter as they propel themselves forward. However, because they don’t have much cushion between the ground and sole of their shoe, they may experience increased shock absorption during landing. As such, they tend to favor stability shoes with thicker soles.
If you’ve always preferred to use a barefoot-style approach, then forefoot striking is perfect for you! Forefoot runners place almost all their weight directly under their toes, so they hardly ever weigh down on the heels. Since they have no padding underneath their arches, they often wear minimalist footwear explicitly designed for this purpose. These lightweight shoes provide excellent traction and flexibility but lack any arch support. For this reason, forefoot runners usually find it easier to transition into traditional running shoes once they start getting faster.
Finally, toe strikers rely entirely upon the springiness of their sneakers to absorb the force of each step. Their shoes feature little or no cushioning whatsoever. Instead, they focus solely on absorbing shocks through their soles. Some experts believe that this technique could lead to injuries due to the extreme stress on certain joints. Still, others argue that toe sticking offers superior control and balance, especially when done correctly.
The Best Foot Strikes For You
Now that we’ve covered the basics, here are three tips to consider when choosing a proper foot strike. First off, make sure you choose one that feels natural. If you’re used to using a particular style, stick with it until you become proficient at it. Second, practice-changing up your stride frequently. Doing so will allow you to adapt to various surfaces while maintaining good form. Finally, ensure that your body position remains consistent throughout your entire workout. A slight variation won’t hurt, but too much movement can cause injury.
Incorporate these 3 simple steps to master your foot strike and reap maximum rewards.
1) Start With Heels
Most beginners gravitate toward heel-striking simply because they think it’s safer. It certainly does seem like a better option since you aren’t placing excessive pressure on your ankles. Unfortunately, however, heel-strikers also suffer from several drawbacks. They require more effort to push off the floor, meaning you spend more time working against gravity. Additionally, heel-strikers take longer to recover after stopping. Lastly, they create unnecessary torque around your knees, hips, and back. All of these factors combine to reduce your total output throughout a race.
2) Switch Up Your Stride Pattern Frequently
As mentioned earlier, switching up your foot strike helps you maintain good posture and avoid muscle fatigue. The best way to do this is to alternate between two types of strikes every few minutes. This allows you to change things up without sacrificing anything else. Here are some examples:
Heel Strike → Midfoot Strike
Midfoot Strike → Heel Strike
3) Keep Things Consistent Throughout Every Workout
This last tip may sound obvious, but many people forget about it altogether. When performing multiple repetitions of an exercise, be sure to perform them consistently. Don’t vary your cadence, just the type of foot strike. Otherwise, you risk developing bad habits that might sabotage your progress later on.
Range of Motion
Range of motion refers to how far your muscles extend before contracting again. In other words, if you have a full range of motion for your hamstrings, then you should be able to straighten out your leg down to 90 degrees. However, most runners only reach 60–70 percent of their hamstring’s full potential. That means there’s still room for improvement!
To increase your range of motion, try doing the following exercises regularly:
Squats – Squatting deep enough increases hip flexion, which improves knee extension.
Lunges – Lunging forward forces your legs into a deeper squat position than normal squats would achieve.
Calf Raises – Standing calf raises work both calves equally by raising each individually.
Hamstring Curls – Hamstring curls target the posterior chain, increasing flexibility and strength.
In conclusion, improving your running form isn’t difficult once you know what needs to be done.
By incorporating these basic principles into your training regimen, you’ll see improvements within no time. Good luck!