The Best Running Form and Running Hills


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By learning how to run with good posture and form you can run stronger for longer and injury free - read on.

Words by Gemma Carter

The most efficient running form is one where the body has very little up and down bouncing motion. The arms should be relaxed, like pistons backwards and forwards and the legs should 'cycle' beneath the body.
The cycling motion

When your foot leaves the ground bring your heel up to your back side to contract the hamstring muscles and glutes. This creates a cycling motion and will mean a shorter, faster stride length.

The upper body

Aim for an upright posture with a slight tilt forwards in the trunk. This ensures efficient acceleration forwards and reduces some of the stresses on the body.

Knees-up!

Its best to increase your knees range of motion during the swing phase as with your knees bent more you can move faster with less effort. With higher knees you'll increase your foot turnover, swing time and reduce the feeling of fatigue.

In the swing of it

It can be quite important to have symmetry in your arms. If they aren't or you swing your arms across your chest instead of in a forward motion this can waste energy and cause problems for your running balance. Equal arm swing will make for a smoother and straighter line for your legs to follow.

Forward motion

Pushing forwards with each stride utilises the hamstring and gluteal muscles effectively and keeps your centre of gravity rolling continually forward. The hips should be your driving force.

Don't get cross

A crossover gait can be very bad for your running. It can cause excessive pronation, knee and hip injuries as well as keeping you unbalanced when you run. Imagine a line between each foot and make sure you keep each foot their side of that line.

Power Quads

By developing the quadriceps you can control the flexion of your knees and minimise the shock felt which can be up to three times your own body weight. The more extended your knees are during this flex phase the more impact your leg will receive so strong quads mean less injury.

Push off right

The best push off occurs where your foot is flat on the ground to the point where your foot clears the ground and your hip, knee and ankle are fully extended. Pushing off at the correct point will mean a faster flight phase and therefore faster running overall.

The Landing

For optimum running, avoid excessive flexion through your joints as you land. Make sure you land on the ball of foot and roll slightly through to your mind foot before taking off again. However too much flexion of the ankle, knee and hip at this point can cause a prolonged stance time and slow you down while running.

Extra form tips for distance running:
Stay loose

A good follow through, relaxed arm and shoulder action will reduce impact stress and useless energy expenditure.

Stay close

Keep your feet closer to the ground when bringing it through from the end of the stride. Also aim to bring the lower leg through to land under the centre of gravity without lifting your knee too much

Check it out

Take a detailed look at your running style and gait on a treadmill in front of a mirror at the gym. This will give you a good idea of your posture, balance and overall form. If you can't do this try even running past shop windows and look at your reflection.

Avoid bouncing

Common inefficiencies in runners are usually from excessive vertical bounce and heel strike. These both waste energy lifting the body up rather than forward and from striking the ground which slows down the runner.

Be well drilled

Running efficiency is one of those things that improves with more practice. So keep at it and over time you'll become more natural.

Running up hills - the proper way

Running hills build strength, efficiency and endurance. The Journal of Biomechanics found running up steep gradients at fast paces achieved greater muscle activation than a slow pace or running fast on flat ground.

Running hills also helps teach your body to ignite the muscle fibres in your legs when you get fatigued to get that extra kick. Start with hills of 300 to 600 metres and try repetitions, increasing the amount over time.

Having great posture and running form when running on an incline will power up your times as well as boost your performance and prevent injury.


Here, I will go through each part of the body and how you should be positioned.

Head

Keep your head upright and your neck relaxed. This enables you to keep your breathing steady and prevent neck ache by leaning too much into the hill.

Eyes

Eyes should be focused about 6 metres directly ahead of you. This helps keep your head straight and eyes focusing on running up the hill.

Hands

Your hands should be loose to enable your body to relax. With hands clenched too tight your body has a tendency to follow suit.

Arms

Arms do most of the driving up hills and lead where your legs will then follow. However, don't overdo it and exhaust yourself. Keep the driving of your arms proprotionate to the effort that the hill needs and keep them at about a 90 degree angle.

Torso

Lean into the hill, but slightly. This keeps your pelvis in the best position to drive through the legs and maintain good momentum.

Legs

Push your legs off and up instead of into the hill itself. This helps keep you 'springy' and carry on up the hill.

Feet

You need to stay on your toes. Push off from the forefoot and uses your calves and quads. The braking action of a heel strike when running up hill will be even more exaggerated and slow you down significantly.

Brain

Prepare before the hill with a positive ' bring it on!' attitude. Going into the hill with extra determination and drive will enable you to give it your all and feel a sense of achievement afterwards.

Going up the hill

If the gradient is constant then keep your pace constant. However, if it isn't create an appropriate strategy to manage it, if it gets too steep use your hands to push off from your knees and slow down.


Going down the hill


Downhill running is an art form. Your feet need to land beneath you and shortening your arm swing helps shorten the strides. Beware not to 'jar' your body to slow yourself down as this puts extreme pressures on your joints especially knees and can lead to injury.

If you are in need of more advice of proper running form turn to a professional such as a running coach or fitness coach who can work with you to analyse and improve your form.



Article by:

Gemma Carter who is a fully trained fitness and life coach.
Visit her website at http://www.cartercoaching.co.uk or email her at: gemma@cartercoaching.co.uk

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