Running is one of the most accessible ways to exercise, but it isn’t as simple as throwing on sweat-wicking gear, comfortable running shoes, and hitting the pavement. You’ve got to consistently practice running with proper form in order to be an efficient runner.
To help you become a better runner, whether you’re just getting into running, you like to run every now and then, or you’re an avid marathoner, David Jou, DPT, cofounder of Motiv NY, shared three simple adjustments you can start making today to your running form to run more efficiently, prevent injury, and get faster.
Cue #1: Maintain the Same Height
“Runners have the tendency to bounce excessively between strides, which can cause too much vertical displacement,” Dr. Jou told POPSUGAR. When you’re bouncing up and down, you waste energy, and this could be why you find yourself feeling fatigued earlier than expected, he explained. “This cue will keep you closer to the ground, decrease your time in the air, and force you to run lighter and absorb shock more efficiently,” Dr. Jou said.
How to implement this: If you aren’t sure if you bounce when you run, Dr. Jou said to record yourself running so that you can see what your running mechanics look like. You can also try running with your arms extended and your hands clasped out in front of you to see how much you bounce and then correct it.
Cue #2: Think Pull Instead of Push
Another simple cue to think about as you run is pulling instead of pushing. Dr. Jou explained that switching to a pulling stride while in contact with the ground allows you to use your hamstrings and glutes, “which can handle significantly more workload than other muscle groups used when pushing.” Pulling also results in a shortened stride and a higher cadence which will decrease your susceptibility to injury, he further explained.
How to implement this: To start pulling, Dr. Jou said to lift your heel up to about mid-calf of the opposite leg, keeping it in line with your glute muscles, meaning your heel shouldn’t be extended far out behind you. “Make sure you’re pulling at a sustainable effort level, not too high or too hard,” he advised.
Cue #3: Lead With the Hips
The final cue Dr. Jou gives to runners is to lead with your hips. “Position is power. When we lead with our hips as opposed to our head and shoulders, our extensors kick in and running upright becomes more natural,” he explained. When you don’t lead with your hips and run in a crouched or “sitting” position, your hips are flexed and your pelvis isn’t in the right position, which can lead to unnecessary stress on your postural muscles. It can also leave you feeling drained from all the impact your body ends up absorbing, he explained.
How to implement this: This cue is pretty straightforward, but it always helps to record yourself to see if you tend to lead with your shoulders and head or your hips. Thinking about running upright instead leaning forward or backward can also help.
These simple cues should help you improve your running, but you’ve got to make sure that you’re thinking about them and implementing them every time you run. If you want to learn more about your running technique and gait, we recommend working with a specialist, such as a physical therapist, who can provide you with more insight about how you currently run and how to optimize your technique to become a better runner and prevent injury.