A Rant About Runners – Proper Running Form
Recently I’ve had to do way more running than I would ever have liked to have done in my lifetime.
I don’t regret a second of it though because I’m running with Jodie and she is one strong and amazing woman. (And her half marathon is August 18th! GO JODIE!)
HOWEVER, I have noticed one thing…Everyone thinks they can run.
MOST PEOPLE HAVE THE WORST RUNNING FORM EVER!
People who have never worked out before in their life often turn to running as their first exercise option.
But what people don’t realize is that RUNNING ISN’T EASY!
Yes, running SHOULD BE a natural movement pattern.
But it isn’t for most adults anymore because we sit hunched over a computer screen for 8 hours a day.
And that sitting over the computer causes postural distortions that then hinder us from properly executing movements that should be natural…aka RUNNING.
I don’t know if Jodie has ever noticed this when we are running, but occasionally I will have like sensory overload where there are just too many runners with incorrect form ahead of us and I have to pass them or I will go insane. I speed up and run around even if I had to step off the path because I just can’t handle it.
And when I say all of this, I’m not trying to be mean or judgmental. I think it is great that people are getting out and being active and doing SOMETHING.
I’m just trying to get across the point that there is proper FORM to running and that if you don’t have decent form you are probably going to get injured.
And injury hinders us from really reaping the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, which are to FEEL BETTER and MOVE BETTER.
So what is proper running form? (And note here I’m talking about longer distance running and not sprinting although many of these things apply to both.)
Well I can tell you it isn’t the knock-kneed running you see so often occurring on the trails. Boy does that annoy me.
And many of those people wonder why they have knee, hip or low back pain!
Anyway, proper running form and common problems….
First off, your upper body should be RELAXED.
Your head shouldn’t be flexed or extended, but should be in line with your spine. This means your eyes should be focused slightly ahead and/or slightly downcast.
Your shoulders shouldn’t be up by your ears. I call this the “turtle” position. No hiding your head in your shell! You don’t want to hold tension anywhere that isn’t necessary. Your shoulders being elevated may have to do with sitting at the desk all day and tension in your upper traps. Try a scapular hold to help you activate your lower traps and roll out your upper traps to alleviate this problem.
Your shoulders may also be elevated because you are forcing too much arm movement. Your arms should be relaxed and swing loosely. If you even notice many long distance runners don’t have much arm movement at all. Their upper bodies are simply relaxed. (This doesn’t mean your arms should just hang by your sides. Your elbows should be bent to about 90.)
Your hands and wrists should be neutral. No weird flexion or extension. AND you shouldn’t be holding your hands in a death grip. RELAX!
You also need to be conscious of how much you rotate. Too much rotation is bad. While running does work your abs, you shouldn’t be doing russian twists while you are running. If your hands are crossing the midline of your body then you are rotating too much. (This could mean you have a little lack of coordination or poor hip flexion aka the movement when you bring your knee to your chest.)
Also, do not have excessive lean or rounding forward. While sprinters will lean forward during the acceleration phase, once they hit maximal speed (or when you are jogging) you should be near perpendicular to the ground.
Now your lower body…
Your low back shouldn’t be arched and you should not waddle (aka have excessive hip sway from side to side)! This means weak core and glute muscles as well as tight hip flexors that need to be taken care of before you just pound away the miles. (If you have lots of rotation this can also mean your hamstrings and adductors are tight as well.)
I’ve also noticed that there are a number of people with a slight hip hike when they run (one hip is higher than the other). This means different problems are occurring on each half of our body, which guess what? LEADS TO INJURY! Roll out your entire hip complex if this is occurring and search for tight spots on each side. You are also going to need to work on adductor and glute medius (your side butt) strength on the side opposite the hip tilt up.
You should also have a good range of motion around your hip and be able to produce force with each ground push off. I see it all the time…Runners bobbing up and down. Don’t waste your energy going up and down! PUSH FORWARD. While you shouldn’t consciously have to think about going forward, each time you push off you should propel forward NOT UP. If you don’t move forward fluidly but do bob up and down, you need to work on your ankle mobility, hip flexibility and posterior chain strength (aka glute, hamstring…whole back of your body….).
Your knees…THEY SHOULDN’T COLLAPSE IN! I see this so often when I’m out running with Jodie. If your knees collapse in, you need to work on your ankle mobility….great thing I have all a lot of the info you need RIGHT HERE. You also need to roll out your inner thighs, hamstrings and strengthen the outside of your leg and glutes. Some single leg balancing would also be a great way to help correct this problem. Also, just a slight side note…But if your IT Bands are always tight and hurt, you may want to have someone see if your knees are collapsing in!
Your feet may also be part of the problem. Take a look at your shoes. Do you run on the inside of your foot or the outside. Many people I’ve seen run on the inside, which makes sense since many of those same people run with their knees collapsing in. All of it is connected and can lead to shin splints, knee problems, plantar fasciitis and even low back pain! If you run on the inside of your feet roll out your lower leg and not just your calf. You will actually want to do a number of the exercises I outline in a post about how to get rid of shin splints and plantar fasciitis!
If your feet turn out that is also a problem to address. It can mean spots in your calves and hamstrings are tight while your glutes and even muscles in your hips are weak.
And last but not least…Don’t overstride. Don’t try to reach with the leg. Let the legs SWING. It all goes back to relaxing and being mobile, which is hard when you sit for 8 hours a day!
Sorry if this is a bit more technical than the usual post, but I want people to start thinking about how they run since so many people turn to running as their exercise of choice.
The whole point of working out is to feel better, to move better. To feel stronger and fitter.
And honestly, bad movement patterns do the exact opposite even if you don’t feel the negative effects yet.
This doesn’t mean you have to give up running.
It just means you should do some strengthening and mobility work so that you can do the thing you love without injury. And you may find you even do it better if you do some of the mobility and strengthening required to have proper running form!
NOTE: I did not discuss heel strike. Interesting read about foot strike.