As children, not long after we learn to walk, we learn to run. So by the time we reach adulthood, running has long been second nature. It is due to this level of familiarity that many of us fail to consider our form.
Just as form and technique can help – or in the case of poor form, hurt – you on your bike and in the water, so, too, should these be considered when training for the running portion of a multisport event.
Running is a full body effort. Running better and faster, therefore, requires the effort and proper technique, from head to feet.
Head: Don’t look down! At least not straight down at your feet. Keep your head up and your eyes on what’s in front of you. A good recommendation is to focus on the ground 10-20 feet in front of you. This will not only help you maintain your form, it will also keep you conscious of your surroundings and help you to avoid accidents.
Neck/back: Posture is important, and not just to your primary school teachers. Keep your back and neck straight to avoid unnecessary strain and pain.
Arms/hands: Since legs and feet are responsible for a great deal of the work of running, arms and hands are often ignored. But arms and hands can actually provide a significant amount of power to propel you forward. Bend your elbows at about 90 degrees. Pump your arms from front to back (not across the middle of your body), swinging no higher than your chest and no lower than your waistline. Cup your hands loosely, as if holding an egg, and avoid clenching or holding them up to high, as this may expend energy unnecessarily and can lead to tightness in your arms, shoulders, and neck.
Legs/feet: There is an ongoing debate about proper technique, in particular whether a heel, mid-foot, or toe strike is best. Some athletes with a preference for one over another even train to change from one form to another. Regardless of the debate, what is most important is what is safe and healthy for your body. A mid-foot strike naturally provides greater shock absorption and puts less strain on shins, calves, and Achilles tendons. As is the case with anything in excess, aggressive heel striking can lead to injuries. Listen to your body and your trainer, and find what works best for you. No matter which part of the foot you land on, be sure that your feet are hitting the ground underneath your center. Overstriding can actually slow you down; your feet become brakes when they land too far in front of you.
What tips do you have for proper running form? Share them with other Honolulu Triathletes on our Honolulu Triathlon Facebook page.