A poor running technique will ruin your performance and elevate your injury risk. Learn how to improve your running form with these tips.
If one of your new year resolutions was to run more, be careful you don’t jog on with the same old technical problems.
Bad running form, a poor posture or a weak core will hamper your running performance and invariably lead to injuries and setbacks.
“When it comes to training your body to run faster, running form often gets overlooked,” says running coach and ASICS Front Runner ambassador Marcus Sladden.
“Mastering your form will not only set you on the path to PBs, but it will also allow you to do so with less effort, due to your body moving in a more fluent motion.”
Sladden, an applied sport science graduate, insists that small technical changes can deliver big results:
“Rather than fighting against potential bad habits you may have picked up, here are some simple tricks to help you improve your running form.”
Here’s how to improve your running form.
How to improve your running form
1. Run taller
How you sit, stand and move during the day will also affect your technique when you hit the trails, tarmac or track.
“In 21st century living, we go from being hunched over a desk to slouching on the sofa, and we often carry the bad posture over as we run,” warns Sladden.
“To fix that when you go running, imagine a puppet master pulling you up with a piece of string through the centre of your head while you’re running.
“Then imagine that your pelvis is a bowl of water: not tilted too far forward or too far back, in order to prevent the water from spilling. This strategy is especially important towards the end of a run, when you’re fighting fatigue.”
2. Power up with plyometrics
Plyometrics are a useful tool for boosting your running form. Repeated explosive movements help to fire up the right supporting muscles to keep your running form on track.
“My all-time favourite plyometric drill for running is the jumping split squat,” explains Sladden. “It strongly emulates a running motion, while really challenging your muscular coordination.”
- Stand with your feet apart in a lunge position.
- Dynamically extend your legs to jump into the air.
- Then switch your leg position before your feet land.
- Immediately upon landing, jump with the opposite feet and repeat.
- Land in an upright position with each rep.
3. Condition your core to improve your running form
A strong core will help you to sustain good running form and prevent you tilting forward as you run. But you need to focus on core drills that are functional for runners.
“Your core isn’t just your ‘six pack’,” says Sladden. “It covers a wide range of muscles that impact every movement in your stride. An effective exercise to target your obliques (an area that most runners neglect) is the side plank.”
- Lie on your side, supporting your upper body on your lower forearm.
- Hold your top arm on the side of your hip, with your feet comfortably stacked on top of one another.
- While lifting your body, keep a straight diagonal line from your head to your feet, and avoid any drop in position as you hold the side plank.”
4. Think on your feet
Sharpen up your footwork with this simple pre-run routine.
“A great drill to do before every run is the dynamic straight leg run drill,” explains Sladden. “It promotes quicker turnover and more efficient coordination as you run.
“Keeping your legs straight and your toes pointing down, run forward and land on your midfoot each time.”
Try not to let your feet come too high off the ground. And always keep your torso upright and strong.
“Ensure you’re running with a faster turnover to promote that all-important quicker ground contact time,” adds Sladden. “The shorter the time your feet touch the ground, the more spring you’ll have in your step.”
5. Get a boost with bounds
Venturing into different terrain can also improve your running form.
“I have one go-to drill I like to do before the cross-country season – it’s called trail hill bounds,” explains Sladden.
The session involves running at an 8/10 effort uphill, while driving your knee up with the longest stride you can (without overreaching). The idea is to push off of the toe, and drive through the calf, hamstrings and glutes, to boost your running form.
“The beauty of this drill is that it promotes a forward lean at the waist, which in turn promotes landing underneath the hip rather than out in front of you, so you avoid over-striding,” explains Sladden.
“It also encourages you to run with a powerful knee drive, whilst making those all-important glutes work hard, to deliver a powerful overall enhancement of your running technique.”
Words: Mark Bailey