Improving your form and running more efficiently is not as hard as it sounds.
I like to break form down into practical steps and easy cues to help connect my brain to the motion my body needs to do. And then I think about these cues as I’m running and fatiguing to remind my body of the motion it needs to be doing.
Also, be patient. Improving your form takes time, but everyday that you focus on it, it’s getting a little bit better and this is one of the best investments you can make into your running.
5 Form Focuses to Try
Instead of trying all of these at once, choose one to focus on for a week. Over time you’ll feel the effects that having good form can have on your performance.
Practice falling forward to get a forward lean.
Stand up and just practice leaning forward until your feet have to start moving to keep from falling. Congrats! That’s the running motion!
Here are some thing that help me with my forward lean:
- Imagine keeping your hips out in front of your toes.
- Imagine a balloon pulling you up, up, and away.
- Another way to think of it is having a harness pull you from your waist.
Any of these visual cues are helpful to connect the forward lean action.
Maintaining forward lean is the objective when you’re practicing this form element. Remind yourself of these cues as you’re running so that you’re improving your forward lean.
Keep your arms relaxed and not tensed up.
Your arms are more powerful when they are relaxed and working with you—not tensed up—or flailing like you’re drowning.
Relaxed arms start at the shoulders and neck. Keep your elbows tucked closed to your body. Keep your hands open and loose. Let your fingers “flop.”
Make sure you are not hunched over. Keep your shoulders back and stand tall.
Your head should be still and looking straight ahead—no bobbleheads. Create a strong posture and keep your chest open so your lungs can fully expand. Never a time for lazy posture while running!
It’s easy when you’re doing a long run to tense up your shoulders and have them creeping up on you. You’ll want to make sure to keep those shoulders relaxed and down.
For your chest—imagine you’re a soldier saluting. That’s the posture you should be holding for your whole run.
Focus on fast cadence/turnover.
Fast cadence changed the game for my running. I love tracking it. High turnover is the key to efficient running—an increase of 5-10 percent above your typical cadence can improve efficiency.
So how do you track this? You put it on one of the top fields on your watch. I use all my easy runs to practice running with high cadence. The goal is to run at 180 steps per minute.
You’ll want to be watching what your cadence is while you’re running so that you have the chance to correct it and feel what 180 steps per minute feels like. When you are coming from slow cadence, 180 steps per minute feels excessive and
like a million tiny steps. That’s normal and you will get used to it. Don’t worry about it feeling natural in the beginning, just focus on getting as close to the 180 number as you can.
If your cadence is currently at 150, you’ll want to focus on getting to 160 and then improving from there. Make improvement easier on yourself by setting small goals on the way to the big one.
The only way to improve on cadence is to really focus on it. So using your easy runs to let cadence be the star is the way to finally see improvement in your turnover.
Your feet should land under your hips, not in front of you.
I spent so many years overstriding and thinking because I had long legs I had to take the biggest steps. Now I know it’s not bigger steps, but MORE steps that help me run faster.
Also—I try to focus on picking my back foot up off the ground quicker. If you’re picking your feet up quickly behind you, your front foot will go down naturally as it should. You don’t have to focus on mid foot strike to get a mid foot strike. Instead focus on picking your feet up to have the desired effect. If you notice that your heel is landing first, refocus on forward lean + cadence + picking your back foot up. This also helps to prevent extra shock to our joints.
Again, I recommend focusing on only one of these form elements per week, so as to not overwhelm yourself.
It’s exciting to see things come together with focused effort. You’ve got this!