Improving your running form mechanics can help you avoid injuries as well as increase the effectiveness of your treadmill workouts. By making three simple running form adjustments, you can conserve energy, avoid injury, and see more improvements in your distance and speed training.
1. Adjusting Your Arms and Hands
A common mistake made in running is humorously known as “T Rex Arms”. This happens when your bicep and forearm remain in close contact, the elbow angle being tighter than 90 degrees.
Holding a tight form like this exhausts more energy than is necessary. By relaxing the bend in your elbow, loosening your hand grip, and limiting your arm swing, you can conserve more energy, which in turn powers a longer distance and faster speed.
Optimal Arm Form For Running:
- Elbows are at ease, creating between a 90 degree and 100 degree angle.
- Fists maintain a light grip, where fingertips are loosely touching the palms or not at all.
As you work to correct your arm form, you may notice yourself tensing up fairly often during your run. When this happens, drop your arms and shake them loose, then continue running with the correct arm form.
2. Focus On Your Foot Strike
Many running injuries are related to an improper foot strike, including knee and lower back problems. Poor foot placement makes long distance running even harder, as your upper body strength deteriorates more rapidly than your leg strength.
Optimal Foot Strike
Your foot should land directly under your center of gravity – under the knee. This helps to evenly distribute your body weight throughout the leg and hips, avoiding uneven stress to joints.
It’s worth it to take the time to correct your foot strike to maintain your treadmill training to see improvements in your running. Here are a few things you can do to adjust your foot strike:
- Shorten your stride – When you overstride, you’re sure to land with your foot too far ahead of your body. A shorter stride not only benefits correcting your foot strike, but it also helps to set and maintain a regular breathing pattern.
- Perform drills – Common drills for improving foot strike use movements like butt kickers and high knees. Simply repeating these movements on a regular basis will help to correct your landing form.
- Lean forward – It’s crucial to note that the lean comes from your ankles – not your waist, which would cause more problems. If you currently overstride and plant your foot in front of your body when you run, give your body a slight lean forward (from the ankles), forcing your foot strike back (under your center of gravity).
3. Keep Your Core Engaged
Strong legs aren’t the only muscle group targeted in running. An ignored core leads to poor posture and more pressure on your back. This affects your stamina by wasting energy and constricting your breathing. As you learn to strengthen and engage your core during your runs, you’ll find it easier to lean forward, open up your stride and increase your speed.
Optimal Core Engagement
Core muscle engagement while running is different than core muscle engagement while performing other exercises. While you might hear “core engagement” and think “SQUEEZE!!”, it’s not so rigorous. You should be aiming to engage your core muscles at about 25% of their maximum effort.
A strong and engaged core starts at the pelvis. Aligning the pelvis with the spine for a straight back, focus on tucking your belly button in. While focusing on engaging your core, remember to breath from your belly (not the chest). Combining these two processes benefit your posture and cardiovascular system, making it easier to perform both important running tasks simultaneously.
Engaging your core is a tough task to perform when your core is weak. Try performing a combination of these common core exercises to build up that strength:
- Star Planks
- Hip to Floor Touch Plank
- Spinal Twist Plank
- Forward Kick Plank
Apply these changes to your running form and in time you’ll see progress that keeps you motivated to do more.