- Run tall. Gravity and weak core muscles cause many runners to “fold” in the middle when their feet land. This sitting-down movement wastes energy. Imagine that wires are attached to your shoulders, pulling you up slightly. Thrust your hips forward a bit and think “stability” when your foot hits. It’s easier to run tall if you’ve worked your core properly.
- Relax. Tension in your arms, shoulders, neck, and face reduces efficiency. Arms and fingers should be loose. Unclench your hands and let your jaw jiggle.
- Breathe right. Your breathing should be rhythmic and deep, and you should feel your diaphragm, not your chest, doing the work. Exhale with controlled force. When you pick up the pace, don’t let your breathing get shallow.
- Land on the midfoot. A heel-first landing is a brake. It means you’re extending your leg out too far in front of your center of gravity, so it takes more energy to move forward. And it’s shaky, so your muscles are working on stabilization instead of forward motion. Shorten your stride. It’ll feel odd at first, like shuffling, but once you get used to it, focus on thrusting backward with force.
- Run softly. The louder your footfalls, the less efficiently you’re running. Try running more quietly; you’ll be unconsciously switching to a midfoot strike and a shorter, quicker stride.
- Swing symmetrically. Check your form on a treadmill in front of a mirror. If one arm is bent more than the other or swings more, you have a musculo-skeletal imbalance that can slow you down. Target the weaker side with strength and flexibility exercises.
- Always stretch after you run. It may not seem like you need to stretch after, but it helps you get rid of lactic acid, which is what makes your muscles ache! In addition, stretching your muscles will allow them to become stronger/faster. Also, by stretching after your run, you need not worry that you are stretching cold muscles. Pre-run stretching, while not inherently unsafe, is more likely to cause injury if not preceded by a warm-up.
- Don’t feel pressured to continue faster than you’re able. Repeat weeks and move ahead only when you feel you’re ready.
- Don’t skip the warm-up, and be sure to walk for a bit when you’ve finished, to allow your body time to cool down gradually.
- Always consume adequate amounts of fluids before, after, and during (if runs last more than 45 minutes or so) your runs, especially in the heat. If you feel at all thirsty, you are already dehydrated.
Running truly requires the least equipment and planning of all exercise. Grab your shoes, a couple of running buddies, and head outside. You’ll be looking and feeling better in no time.