Whether you start running for the first time or you have been running for years. Every runner should pay attention to their running technique and form. Not only to make your runs more efficient and limit the risk of injuries but also because running with the right technique feels a lot better.
Wondering how you can improve your running technique? We asked former marathon runner and exercise expert Gerard Nijboer to share the necessary information and tips you so can start improving your running form today.
A little throwback to your childhood
Did you know that the basis for your running form is already laid in your childhood? Gerard explains: “After a toddler can stand up, the urge to explore its surroundings follows. Wanting to grab a toy or attempting to take a closer look at something. While following this need to explore, the body will follow the toddler’s movement by automatically leaning forward. In order not to fall the first step is taken. This first step is usually followed by a lot of trial and error. Getting back up and trying again strengthens the body and leg muscles. After some time and a lot of trying, the walking pattern becomes more stable.” And voila, the first stage is completed successfully.
You probably started running for the first time when you were about 3 to 4 years old. “Running is usually done for the first time in a sort of game form, like when children play tag. During these kinds of games, children are not thinking about running in the right posture, but the right movement happens by itself. The body tilts forward, the swing of the arm is used and the steps are made bigger.” Gerard says. So actually your running technique as a child was already naturally correct. Unfortunately, we forget how to properly run because we sit too much. On top of that, our human perception of the body and motion patterns is not realistic. Sometimes it is underestimated, but more often it is overestimated. Overestimating the body can cause muscle pain and even worse: injuries.
6 tips for a good running technique
Okay, so now you know a little about the foundation of your running skills, but how can you improve your runs? Gerard Nijboer gives the following tips:
1. Start with a warming up
In order to be able to use a correct running technique while running, it is advisable to warm up your muscles before you start. Begin your warm-up with some exercises to loosen up the large joints and muscles. After that you start your run with a brisk walk, paying attention to the movement of your feet. In this way, you will loosen up the muscles in your foot.
2. Focus on a point in the distance
Keep yourself upright, head above the body, leaning slightly forward. Try to avoid leaning forward too much. It also helps to focus on a point in the distance, like around 100 meters in front of you.
3. Natural arm position
It is important to let your arms move naturally alongside your body. Keep your elbows at an angle of approx. 90 degrees and move your shoulders gently along. This supports your stride and prevents you from lifting your arms up too high. Highly raised arms can cause your breathing to feel restricted. So shake your arms loosely while walking. Also, prevent your arms from constantly moving in front of your body as if you were climbing a rope. Can you imagine ;)? Move your arms in a relaxed way next to your body, from front to back, back to front.
4. Strengthen your core
Does your back ever bother you during or after running? Then your core muscles may not be strong enough. As a result, you tend to tilt your pelvis forward causing an imbalance in the torso muscles. This imbalance is often a source of back problems, especially if you run at a high pace and for a long period of time. So, pay attention to your core muscles and train them if necessary.
5. Good running shoes
This may sound very obvious, but when you start running, it is important to buy good running shoes. Nobody is alike, so that is why it is best to get proper advice fit for your needs. Finding the best-fitting shoe among the numerous choices at your local running store isn’t always easy. To ensure you walk out a happy customer, you need to make sure the shoe fits properly from heel to toe and that it feels comfortable with your regular running stride. If you have back problems during or after running, it is best to choose running shoes with low heels. Running shoes with higher heels shorten your calf muscles and thicken your Achilles tendon. This causes your back to become hollow and your pelvis to tilt.
6. Find the perfect stride length
It is advisable to pay attention to your stride length: the distance between the steps you take. The right stride length helps you improve your running efficiency and reduces the risk of injury. Many runners make the mistake of overstriding, meaning they extend their foot too far in front of their bodies, thinking this will increase their speed. Overstriding increases rotation in the pelvis area, which costs a lot of energy and even slows you down. Shorter, higher-frequency steps make your hip rotate less and your pelvis stays more horizontal.
Are you a beginning runner?
Then it’s very important not to get too carried away when you start running. This is perhaps the most important advice we can give to beginning runners. Start out slow, build up your endurance, give your muscles time to adjust to this new type of exercise. Also, as a beginning runner, you have an unsteady running pattern and there is little to no sense of pace, which causes the stride length to vary. This increases the risk of bad muscle aches and injuries.
That’s why you should start step by step, just like when you were a toddler who tries to walk.
Troubles mastering the right running technique?
Then you might want to find a way to get in touch with a local running group and ask to attend a training session. This way a trainer can take a good look at your posture and provide you with tips on how to improve your running technique over time.
About Gerard Nijboer
Gerard Nijboer is a former marathon runner and exercise expert. He gained great fame in the Netherlands for winning Olympic silver and the European title on the marathon. He is also a three-time Dutch champion on the 25 km and three-time Dutch champion on the marathon. He still holds the Dutch record on the 25 km and was the Dutch record holder on the marathon for a long time. Gerard is currently giving clinics and presentations on topics related to health & vitality, perseverance and setting goals.