These five secrets will help you improve your running form, making it easier to run faster and longer. Running coaches develop catch phrases to sum up big ideas in a few short seconds. Using just a few words, they can convey big ideas to athletes as they fly by on race day. Here are a few of my favorites:
Shoulders back, hips forward, head up. Good running form requires good posture. To make it easier, I tell my runners to show their belt buckle off to the world. If you push your hips forward a bit, you’ll find that your shoulders fall back and you back straightens. It’s all related, and it begins with a simple idea of showing off your belt buckle.
Some runners swing their arms across their bodies as they run. This creates momentum in the wrong direction and starts a chain of events that can cause injuries and issues from the neck and shoulders all the way down to the feet. Sometimes I’ll draw attention to this arm swing issue by yelling “belly button.” The reminder is not to let your hands cross the midpoint of your body. I might also use “railroad tracks” to remind repeat offenders that their arms should be moving as if they are following a set of parallel tracks, not reaching for the opposite shoulder.
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If you hear the sound of your feet slapping the surface of the road or track, your running form is sloppy. Try to run quietly, and you’ll find that you rise up on your toes a bit, shorten your stride, and gain better control of your body. Ninjas move quietly. Try running like a ninja to improve your running economy.
One of the most difficult things to learn as a distance runner is to shorten your stride and focus on quick steps. Big, lunging strides invite injury and will wear you out quickly by taxing large muscles groups like the quadriceps. If you shorten your stride and focus on a quicker turnover you’ll be lighter on your feet and run longer with less effort. This is most apparent on hills. On hills, my runners will hear me yelling “quick steps” to remind then to shorten their stride and chew up the hill in quick steps until their up and over the crest. I usually pair that with “eyes up” and “run with your arms” to remind them to look forward and pump their arms.
What do you do when your winded? You gasp for air. You focus on that next ragged breath to inhale as much precious air as you can. But, it’s not that lack of oxygen that’s hurting you, it’s the build up of carbon dioxide in your body. So, I remind my runners to “breathe out” and focus on a strong exhale. Of course, a big inhale follows. But, focusing on the exhale seems to make the effort just a bit easier. I also remind them to fill their belly with air. Shallow breathing from the chest can lead to cramps and panicky gasping. Filling your lungs completely makes a huge difference.
There you have it. Some free coaching tips from me to you. Think about these key phrases on your next run and see if it helps you run more efficiently.