Whether you want to run faster, farther, or with fewer injuries then this 7-step guide to better running will help you reach your goals. The golden rule of this guide is to make your running more efficient, which will make you faster and less prone to injury. The 7 steps are as follows: Posture, Foot Landing, Positive Center of Mass, Foot Recovery, Light Feet, Cadence, and Arm Swing.
1. Posture: Running posture is extremely important to start your running off on the right foot (pun intended). To be an efficient runner and not injure oneself with excessive joint loading then the first thing to check is posture.
To start, try to stand as straight and as tall as possible. Then alternate between arching and flattening your low back until you find the ideal relaxed neutral spine between the two. Then lean forward and try to maintain the posture you just found, until the point you have to step forward to keep from falling. This is the ideal running form and one just needs to keep from falling for the duration of a run.
2. Foot Landing: This refers to 2 things; where one lands on their foot and where the foot lands in relation to one’s center of mass (COM).
First, there are 3 options for where to land on your foot; forefoot, midfoot, and rearfoot (heel). Most Americans land on their heels whereas all hunter-gather tribes land on their forefoot or midfoot. Technically there is no difference in efficiency between rearfoot striking and forefoot striking but there is a higher incidence of injury with rearfoot striking runners due to the increased compressive forces moving up the leg.
Second, where one’s foot lands in relation to their COM becomes important when trying to balance the braking and impulsive forces inherent in running. When landing on one’s heel or if the foot lands in front of one’s COM then there is a natural inclination to brake or slow down, see picture above. One must find a balance between the 2 forces to be an efficient runner.
3. Positive Center of Mass (COM): This literally means lean forward so you can use the momentum of your body falling to maintain speed rather than using your legs to push your body forward with every step.
4. Foot Recovery: This is how long your foot is in contact with the ground on each step. A good foot recovery is quick. A bad one is slow. To practice a faster foot recovery then use a metronome app and set it to around 180 beats per minute and try jogging to the beat with each footfall landing on the beat. The goal is to not go too fast but to see if you can go slow and maintain a fast foot recovery. This way at the end of your race when you usually slow down you’ll instead find you can keep up a steady pace by focusing on your foot recovery.
5. Light Feet: This goes hand in hand with foot recovery. If you have a quick foot recovery then you will be light on your feet as a result. I like to think of myself sneaking up on runners ahead of me. If I can catch them without them hearing me coming then I know my feet are as light as possible. Listen to other runners next time you’re out running and you’ll notice a lot of runners have loud plodding footfalls and you’ll realize it’s no wonder they have knee, hip, or back pain with all that extra weight on the joints.
6. Cadence: Cadence is the number of steps taken per minute. For most amateur runners a cadence of around 180 is ideal. My advice is to download a metronome app on your phone and set it to 180 beats per minute and try running in time to the beat. Play around with the beat making it faster or slower depending on what feels right for you. Certain apps will even make playlists for you based on what cadence you want.
7. Arm Swing: Last but not least is arm swing. To be an efficient runner one must swing their arms but if swung too much it will take more energy than it saves. The best advice here to keep your shoulders relaxed and elbows close to your sides.
In summary, the most important steps of this guide are posture and cadence. If you find the ideal posture it will solve issues with foot landing and positive center of mass. If you alter your cadence it can solve problems with light feet and foot recovery.
Now go out there and try these steps for yourself, see what you think, and comment below to let others know what worked.