5 Things You Can Do Today to Improve Your Running Form
The truth about running form is: unless you are 1) an elite athlete with a dedicated coach, or 2) you’ve been injured before and have been working with a PT, you probably have spent little to no time considering your running form. Here’s why you should though.
- Good running form can help reduce the risk of future injuries and keep existing or past injuries at bay.
- Optimizing your form can help you improve your performance. i.e., run faster and farther
- It makes running just a little bit easier! And who doesn’t want that.
Here at Lumo, we spend a lot of time thinking about running form and how we can help runners improve by simple and effective coaching accessible to everybody. With our upcoming release of Lumo Run, we’re excited to be able to provide a tool that runners can use to track, learn and get coached on some of the most important metrics in running form. But until then, here are 6 (somewhat) easy things you can start doing today to improve your running form.
Increase your cadence
Cadence, or more commonly known as steps per minute, is the measure of how often your foot strikes the ground per minute. Experts recommend being between 180 and 200 steps per minute for optimal performance, though a recent research published by Heiderscheit et al. found that being over 166 steps per minute is sufficient for reducing risk of injury. An easy way to calculate your cadence during your run is to count how many steps you take (both left and right) in a 15 or 30 second interval and multiplying that by 4 or 2 depending. Many trackers like Garmins will also track your cadence for you.
Lumo Run Tip: Spotify has a little known section of their app called Running (under Browse) and will select songs based on your cadence. The trick is to skip the cadence detection part at the beginning and pre-set your cadence to 180 or above. Spotify will then select songs that have 180 beats per minute, based on your historical preferences. All you have to do from there is run to the beat!
Land directly underneath your pelvis
I’m sure you’ve heard of the different foot strikes: fore-foot, mid-foot, and gasp heel-striking. The truth is, however, that the location on your foot in which you land actually doesn’t matter too much, as long as you are landing directly underneath your pelvis.
One of the reasons behind the fore-foot and mid-foot movement is because opting to land on the mid to front of your foot makes it harder to land out in front of your pelvis as it is for heel-strikers. Landing in front of your body is a likely indicator of over-striding and loads your foot with a lot of pressure and weight upon contact with the ground. This is what you want to avoid.
Lumo Run Tip: Focus on landing underneath your pelvis even if that means temporarily shortening your stride. Once you get used to landing under your body and not in front, you can start to work on your push-offs behind you to lengthen your stride out again.
Strengthen and recruit your core and glutes
Surprise! There’s more to running than just running. In order to run in good form over long distances, you need the core muscle strength to fuel movement down the rest of the kinetic whip (your legs), but you also need proper recruitment of these muscles. Many runners tend rely on their calf and hamstring muscles to power their stride where they should be looking to source power from their glutes and core which is our largest muscle group.
Lumo Run Tip: Incorporate circuit and strength training into your weekly regimens to diversify your training and build strenghth particularly in the glutes and core. At the beginning, but also during, occasionally poke these muscles to “wake” them and recruit them.
Pay attention to your arm swings
Your arm swings actually influence more than just your upper body during your run. Your arm swings act as a counter-balance to your individual strides to create stability in your form. i.e., you swing your right arm back when you swing your left leg forward. The ideal is to have a clean, straight arm swing back past your hips, as if you were reaching for something in your back pocket, with your elbow at a comfortable 90 degree angle. This will help balance out the momentum of your strides and keep your pelvis from rotating excessively.
Lumo Run Tip: Avoid cross-over arm swings where your fists and forearms cross your midline in front of you. This causes and reinforces excess pelvic rotation which wastes a whole lot of energy to return yourself to a neutral pelvis. Not to mention, it leads to cross-over steps which open up a whole set of other problems in gait.
Especially in long distances, the farther you run, the more fatigue you experience and maintaining proper form becomes more of a challenge. You may have noticed in other runners (or yourself!) that as you approach high mileage values or fatigue sets in, your posture takes a dive. Not only is this not the most attractive way to run, it’s also inhibiting your breathing and constricting arm movement, promoting cross-over arm swings.
Lumo Run Tip: Find an appropriate cue—maybe it’s every mile; every 3 songs; every time your running app provides feedback—do a quick posture scan and reset. Make it a point to pull your shoulders back, bring up head up and engage your core.