Proper Running Form on the Fly

Establishing proper running form while running can be difficult without the watchful eyes of a coach. Difficult…but fortunately not impossible! The next time that you’re out on your run, you can practice doing a ‘self check’, or as referred to in the chi running community, a body scan. This essentially involves raising self awareness of your running form by performing a quick a head to toe scan one area at a time during your run. It’s quite the same technique that you would use if you were attempting to achieve complete relaxation of your body by focusing on one area at a time, activating it, and then releasing. Performing a self check can be particularly valuable if you’re distance running, where fatigue sets in and sloppy running form slowly takes over.

Here is a quick and easy way to perform a ‘body scan on the fly’ to achieve as many elements of proper running form as possible one body part at a time.

The Proper Running Form Song

This will sound very silly, but it’s also the reason why I remember what to do. Sung to the children’s nursery rhyme we all grew up with, ’Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes!’, here goes…

HEAD

Bring your head straight up and back. This action should cause two things to happen. First your chest/breasts should come out like a proud peacock opening up your airways. Second, your posture should improve to avoid any leaning forward from the waist (your lower back is already happier).

SHOULDERS

Shoot for the complete relaxation of your shoulders, arms and hands. Imagine someone put an ice cold can of pop (or beer) on your bare back between your shoulders and do quick shoulder shrugs. Then completely release your shoulders and shake out your arms. Finally, with your thumbs and first fingers lightly touching, bring your hands up to your sides so that your wrists are gently brushing by your hip bones as they move forward and backward.

HEELS

This is a reminder to bring your heels up quickly and directly under your butt. The tricky part is to let your feet fall rather than drive your feet back down to the ground. This brings awareness to your stride length and helps to avoid over striding – particularly in longer runs as you start to fatigue. It also helps to minimize pounding on your legs as you are touching the ground for as little time as possible.

ROLL!

Leaning (falling) from the ankles, picture moving forward with gravity in a smooth and fluid motion. I think of the caveman cartoon Thor and my legs move like the wheel. The faster I go, the quicker my cadence gets to keep up!



Try counting your right steps and look to hit around 90 or more single steps per minute. A quick cadence relies heavily on your hamstring firing so this gets better with practice. *Refer to the 'quick feet’ exercise on the running drills page for more info!

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