How to perfect your running form

female running
How to perfect your running formKen Redding - Getty Images

There's a way of becoming a faster, more efficient runner that doesn't involve training harder or sweating more. Interested? Then improve your running form. While correct running form isn't a one-size-fits-all proposition, there are certain pillars that the majority of experienced runners and athletes agree upon: feet landing under your centre of mass, rather than far out in front of you; a quick, snappy cadence, somewhere between 170-185; an upright posture, with no leaning from the waist.

Dialling in your running posture can help to make you faster and also more resilient to injury. Try these 10 drills and exercises to help you achieve better running form.

Balance test

WHY? Core strength is essential for good posture. An upright posture with a slight forward lean ensures efficient forward acceleration and reduces stress on the body.

DRILL: Stand on the balls of your feet, just less than shoulder-width apart, and use your abdominal muscles to control your posture for 60 seconds while keeping your balance.

High knees

WHY? Increase your knees’ range of motion during the swing phase. With your knee more bent, you can move faster with less effort.

DRILL: Stand in your push-off position, with your left foot forward and your right foot back. Lift your right heel like you’re toeing off. From here perform a high knee lift. Replicate this in your runs for 10-15 seconds on each side.

The midline

WHY? Beware the crossover gait. If you imagine a line between your legs as you run, you need each foot to land either side of that line. If they cross it, you’ll be landing more on the outside of your foot, adding stress to your muscles and tendons.

DRILL: Find a line on a track or football pitch, and run eight 100m reps, keeping your feet either side of the line.

Squats

WHY? The forces experienced as your foot hits the ground can be up to three times your bodyweight. Strong quads control the flexion and minimise the shock.

DRILL: Squats. Keeping your arms at your sides, bend at the hips and knees to lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor, hold, then press back up. Perform three sets of 10 reps.

Cadence

WHY? For optimum efficiency, avoid excessive flexion through your joints as you land. Pronounced flexion of the ankle, knee and hip reduces the impact shock but decreases your rebound. Minimising it can keep you on the go, faster.

DRILL: Cadence counts. During a run, count the number of right footstrikes achieved in 20 seconds. Aim for 30.

Arm swing

WHY? If your arms swing across your chest, this can translate to your legs and upset your form. An equal arm swing will help keep your legs straight.

DRILL: Stick two labels on your running top, on the side of your ribcage two inches below your chest. Perform 50m warm-up sprints, drawing your shoulders back and swinging your upper arms forward and back to touch the labels.

Tyre sprints

WHY? Focus on pushing forwards through your hips with each step. This will utilise your gluteal and hamstring muscles in the push-off and keep your centre of gravity consistently rolling forward.

DRILL: Tyre sprints. Tie a tyre behind you, and using the resistance, lean forwards and perform six 60m sprints, fully extending your legs, with walk-back recoveries.

High hops

WHY? Get the most from your push- off – from the point where your foot is flat on the ground to where your hip, knee and ankle are fully extended. Improving this will help you achieve a faster flight phase.

DRILL: High hops. Perform six 50m reps high-hopping on alternate legs with a walk- back recovery. Ensure your leg is fully extended on take-off every time.

Create a gap

WHY? If your knees brush against each other while you’re running, there’s a good chance that’s from hip adduction – something that leads to an inefficient stride and, potentially, injury.

DRILL: Try to create a small gap between your knees while running. Strengthening the glutes is unlikely to address this on its own – although the resistance-band exercises featured here are still worth doing.

Run tall

WHY? Excessive ‘trunk’ lean (ie leaning from your waist) encourages over-striding.

DRILL: Ask someone to film you running side-on, and see if you’re leaning forward a lot from the waist. Try to ‘run tall’ and look straight ahead at the horizon, rather than downwards (providing it’s safe to do so i.e. there’s nothing to trip over).

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