If you’ve ever watched a swim coach working with athletes, the first thing you’ll notice is that a lot of his or her coaching has to do with fine tuning his swimmers’ form. In swimming, the more streamlined you are and the less drag you have going through the water, the faster you’ll be able to swim.
While form may not be as important in running, nonetheless, it does make a difference in how well (and how fast) you can run. Just ask New York and Boston Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi. Meb spends a significant amount of his training focusing on good form technique.
There are several areas to look at that affect your biomechanics and gait cycle, including posture, alignment, and pelvis stability.
Running expert and renowned coach & author Jeff Galloway offers several tips to maintain good form. He starts by recommending erect posture. If you find yourself leaning forward at the waist, you are compressing your ribcage and hindering proper breathing.
Next on the list is a relaxed body. While this seems intuitive, many runners waste energy fighting tension because of poor postural habits. Galloway reminds us that “All motion should be directed straight ahead: Hips, shoulders arms and legs should all be pointed forward.”
Arm swing is designed to coordinate with your legs., Your arms should be relaxed, and not held out too far from the body. Most of the arm swing should be in the lower arms, not the upper. Hands should be lightly cupped, not clenched.
As in many sports, hips play a key role as well. In running, they should be shifted forward and in line with the head and shoulders. Unlike sprinters, distance runners do not have a high knee lift, but rather an efficient “shuffle.” That’s where cadence comes in. Studies have shown that optimal cadence is around 180 foot-strikes per minute—45 steps every 15 seconds. This is closely tied to ankle efficiency and stride length. Your ankles are highly efficient levers which allow you to shift your body weight forward and take shorter, more frequent strides.
Longer strides do not translate to faster running. Elite runners typically have a shorter stride, but maintain a high cadence.
Like many coaches, Galloway suggests you memorize an acronym to help remember the basics of good form—in this case “CHP.” That stands for Chest up, Hips forward and Push off.
Remember, even the most experienced runners can benefit from good form. Just ask Meb.
Upcoming races: Capt’n Karl’s Muleshoe Bend Night Trail Run 60K, 30K and 10K, Sat. July 15, 7:00 p.m. at Muleshoe Bend LCRA Recreation Area, Spicewood, TX. July 15 at 7:30 a.m., Hot 2 Trot 5K at Lion’s Park, Temple. July 15 at 8:00 a.m. Vern’s No Frills 5k, Berry Springs Park & Preserve, Georgetown.