A key component of running fast is proper form. This simply means using your body properly and so avoiding wasted energy – energy that will be better employed pushing you forward. You will run faster and further when your head, shoulders, hands, arms, torso and legs are in the right position
Scientific Studies on Running Form, Speed and Efficiency
Runners run faster and further when they master a proper running form. That was the conclusion in a study published in journal of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, by researchers with the Bioenergetics and Human Performance Research Group at the University of Exeter in England.
10 novice women runners were put in a 10 week running program. They became better runner over the course of the 10-week program. Their speed and endurance increased — not into world class range, but most were able to run for 30 minutes at a pace of about 12 or 13 minutes per mile. And they became notably more economical, with their ability to use oxygen increasing by about 8.5 percent.
The women were all somewhat wobbly in the rear foot when they began running. After 10 weeks, they were more stable when they struck the ground. The change from poor running form to proper running form enabled them to run faster.
Proper Running Form Minimizes Injuries
Learning the proper running form will also minimize injuries. Running form is important, especially for distance runners who are likely to suffer from repetitive impact injuries.
Correct Running Form : Head, Shoulder, Arms, Hands To Toes
From head to toe, Here are the elements of form, that when perfected, will result in you becoming a better, more skilled and faster runner:
1. Head tilt: Correct posture can immediately be seen in a runner’s head being straight and in alignment with his/her back. He/she will be focused on the horizon, with the chin kept in.
2. Mouth- Should be relaxed. A good test that tells whether you are running in a relaxed position is jiggly cheeks.
3. Eyes- Are facing forward but are darting around every few seconds to watch for cars, pedestrians and obstacles that could injure you on the sidewalk.
4. Shoulders: Two enemies of good form – tension and stiffness – can be seen in shoulders that are too high, and too tight and immobile. They should be kept low and loose, and remain nice and level. If you find tension creeping into your shoulders, give them a shake or do a bit of stretching to loosen them up.
From natural running centre I found this good poster.
5. Arms: Let your arms swing forward and back, rather than side-to-side across your body. Keep them at waist to lower chest level and aim to maintain your elbows at a 90-degree angle. And again, tension is a danger, here – if you feel any tension developing in your arms, shake them out for a few moments.
6. Hands– Slightly cupped and again, relaxed.
7. Torso: When your head is up, and your shoulders are low and loose, your torso will quite naturally be straight. This enables you to use your lung capacity efficiently, and optimise your stride length.
8. Hips: As your center of gravity, your hips are key to good form. When your pelvis is correctly positioned, your whole lower body will be in alignment. Aim to keep your back and torso nice and straight; when you do this, your hips will naturally be in an ideal position.
9. Butt– Put some glute in to your runs. Flex your glutes and concentrate on each stride coming first from the butt, then the legs. You can really get a great glute workout running uphill.
10. Legs– Shorter running strides are better than the long ones. They reduce injuries like muscle pulls and strains. They also save energy during long runs. You don’t want to burn out before crossing the finish line because you are moving your legs inefficiently. However find the balance between the long and short strides. You still want to be running, not shuffling along.
11. Stride. Don’t over stride and avoid making to many strides. Overstriding creates excessive braking forces when the foot strikes the ground too far ahead of their centre of mass. This is a cause of foot injuries.
12. Knees– Slightly flexed to take impact. Sprinters raise their knees more than endurance runners for power.
13. Feet- Run heel to toe. Not on your tip toes. Your feet should land directly underneath your body.
Good form isn’t the only ingredient of speed, of course – other things like muscular strength and flexibility play an important role, too. But make no mistake, as your form improves, so will your speed. Work on perfecting these elements of form, and you will begin to see improvements in your running speed – and your sporting success.