Proper Running Form

Posted: December 5, 2011 in Uncategorized

The focus of our initial training session last Saturday was the importance of developing  proper (i.e.,smooth and efficient) form.  You become less tired throughout your runs and significantly reduce the risk of injury if you can maintain proper running form throughout every run.  It’s imperative to conserve energy from the very first step of every run.  Many runners don’t focus on their form until fatigue sets in.  By then it’s far too late, it’s similar to waiting to hydrate until you’re thirsty.  I recommend running the first 1-2 miles of every race at a pace that’s at least 1-2 minutes slower than you expect to average for the remaining miles.  This allows your heart to pump major volumes of blood (oxygen) to your major muscles and prevents going into oxygen debt.

Sustaining proper form becomes more challenging as the miles progress and fatigue sets in.  Core strength is an essential component to proper running form.  An upright position with a slight forward lean is the ideal position for running.  A runner constantly monitoring their form is similar to an airline pilot trimming the wings in an effort to gain maximum efficiency.  This ideal position places less stress on the body and significantly reduces the risk of injury.

Running at a stride rate of 180 steps per minute is the ideal range .  During your next run count your foot strikes on one foot for a minute and you should be near 90.  Most runners over stride so that number will be less than 90.  It seems counter intuitive but you improve your efficiency by taking more steps.  You expend less energy attempting to propel your body over a greater distance by maintaining an 180 spm (steps per minute) rhythm.

Running with a slight bend in your knees also places less stress on your body.  Heel strikers tend to straighten and almost hyper-extend their legs, placing a considerable amount of shock on their lower extremities.  Each   generates 2-3 times your body weight of force  so it’s important that each foot strike be flowing and rhythmic, almost like a dance.  Maintaining relaxed shoulders, hands, and breathing will improve the ability to run efficiently.

As the miles progress and fatigue sets in it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain running efficiency.  Taking regular walk breaks staves off fatigue and extends the ability to run efficiently. Developing proper running form throughout each run should be a top priority for every runner.  Living in the moment and focusing on smooth and efficient movement, rather than how many miles remain, is a huge step in the right direction!

  1. Erik says:

    Coach – I also think you should remind everyone about the slow starts. One-two miles of a slower pace helps me settle into my form without getting too banged up. The first part of a run should be particularly gentle.

    • Hello Erik,

      Thank you for the reminder of the importance of starting slowly and easing into each run. I will add that suggestion to my latest post. It’s great having you on the TEAM again this year!

      Coach Rick

  2. Tom Beer says:

    Rick, this is the most concise and best written explanation of Running Form that I have ever seen. Nice job!
    Tom Beer

  3. I think it’s great that you’re a proponent for proper running form. It’s so important, and yet so few people actually consider it. Do you propose that it’s as easy to maintain good form, upright positioning and 180rpm with no overstriding, as a heel-striker? Or do you promote a mid-foot strike as well? I only ask because you didn’t say either way.

    • Hello Trisha,

      It is possible to accomplish a stride rate of 180 steps per minute as a heel striker but it’s not as efficient as being a mid or forefoot striker. I hope you will give me permission to use a portion of your recent blog post regarding your training experience with the Marathon Coalition in one of my future posts.



  4. […] time concentrating on my stride, making sure to keep my running form correct per Coach Rick’s description. I am finding that my form is actually pretty decent (or at least I think […]

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