The above photo, showing Craig Alexander passing Terenzo Bozzone, is a great example of how running form impacts one's performance. We can all benefit from tweaking our form, and implementing some of the techniques Mr. Alexander demonstrates with such ease. At GEAR, we consider the following to be imperative for improving one's form:
1. Foot Strike. The basic foot strike is similar to marching in place, with the forefoot landing first, followed by the heel gently settling. Gradually increase your cadence while maintaining the same foot placement until running in place. Now, lean forward at the ankles and let gravity take you forward (think "fall into the run").
2. Body Position. Imagine having a string attached to the crown of your head pulling you upward, and one attached to your forehead pulling you forward. The ideal position is somewhat erect with a slight forward lean at the ankles.
3. Arm motion. With your arms at your side, raise your hands to a 90º (or less) angle while keeping your elbows at your side. As you begin running, concentrate on the backward swing of the arm motion. Reaching too far forward is wasted energy, especially when coupled with a side-to-side arm swing. Ideally, your arms should swing back until your hands are even with your side, and forward to the starting position.
4. Cadence. Maintaining a cadence of roughly 180 strides per minute helps prevent over-striding, vertical oscillation, heel striking, and "toeing off".
Below is an excellent video of our friend Dr. Mark Cuccuzella running with impeccable form, sans shoes, though he typically runs in Newton's. Notice how he lands under his center of gravity, has a slight forward lean at the ankles, touches the ground with his forefoot first, and lifts off after the heel gently settles. This running style produces twelve times less impact than a heel striking gait, and dramatically lessens one's risk of injury.
Four Helpful Mantras
1. "Tap tap, not thud thud." Listen to your footfall. The less you hear, the better.
2. "Ooh, Ooh, Ooh, Ooh!" Think of running on hot sand or coals, and quicken your step. Your feet should touch the ground lightly, then lift quickly.
(Frank Shorter shared this mantra with us in Boulder last week.)
3. "Fall into the run." Lean forward at the ankles and let your body propel itself forward.
4. "Smile through the miles." Even if you have to force it during the later stages of a race, smiling has great psychological advantages, and uses less energy.
GEAR as a Resource
We love helping our customers become healthier, more efficient runners. Feel free to call us, or stop in with any questions. We also host running clinics, led by one (or several) of our five certified coaches. These are typically announced on Facebook, and are highly beneficial for runners of all ability levels. We wish you all the best in your training, and look forward to hearing from, and seeing you soon!