Recognising and Correcting Running Form Mistakes
The greatest majority of amateur runners (and some aspiring professionals, as well) are complaining of the inability to exceed a specific threshold in terms of running endurance or speed. They are trying other associated types of exercises, such as strength building and cardio, but there doesn’t seem to be the slightest improvement in their running speed or duration.
Surprisingly enough, all these athletes do not take into consideration one critical aspect which prevents them to reach top performance: running posture, or form. However, a good running posture is essential to optimise the use of your energy, improve aerodynamics and prevent muscle fatigue.
There are five very common running posture mistakes which a lot of people make. In some of these cases, athletes actually believe that these wrong postures help them run faster and increase their endurance. These are:
- Slow Cadence
Cadence is the number of times your feet hit the ground per minute and it has a mathematical importance in achieving top running speed. Running speed is calculated as the multiplication between stride length and stride frequency. Cadence is the stride frequency in this equation.
Now, if you think that you are running faster if you throw your leg forward as far as it goes, you are mistaken. It is true that a longer stride means that you cover more distance in one stride, but it also decreases your cadence. And with low cadence and over-exertion of the hip muscles and tendons, fatigue will set in faster. Moreover, you risk injury in your hip and upper leg muscles.
- Asymmetrical Running
Do you feel that one of your leg feels more fatigued and in pain than the other? This is the result of an asymmetrical running pattern. It means that you put more body weight on one leg than on the other, effectively reclining to one side or another. You may not notice this problem while you are running, but you will observe the after effects – pain, reduced mobility and less strength in one leg.
The best solution is to have a physical therapist observe you while running, identify the problem and recommend the best combination of exercises to get rid of your unhealthy habit.
- Arm Swing and Fist Clenching
This is the type of running form mistakes when you actually think that you are helping yourself run farther and faster. When you clench your fists, lift up your shoulders and pump your elbows vigorously up and down, you commit the so-called “chicken wings” posture mistake.
As you upper body tenses, your energy is actually split between the upper and lower parts of your body and you will never achieve top performance. If you want to understand the importance of a relaxed upper body, look at professional sprint runners in slow motion: their jaw and shoulders are relaxed, their elbow swing is natural and their whole upper body moves in a relaxed flow with the rest of the body.
- Fore-Running When You Are a Heel-Runner
You may think that it is more efficient to run putting more pressure on your forefoot, when your natural running type is putting pressure on your heel. Trying to change the natural way your body moves is completely detrimental to you. No matter what TV experts and fitness gurus say, your body knows best how to use up energy and achieve top running speed.
If your leg muscles are not strong enough to support a forefoot running style, then attempting it will lead to fatigue, muscle cramps and poor performance.
- Inward Knee Collapse
When you run, your knees should be aligned with your hips, not bow inwardly. This is a sign that you are not working your gluteal muscles properly; thus, your hip muscles are weak and cannot support your body weight while running. In this case, your weight is transferred from the hips to the knees.
You must realise that having fatigued knees after a run is not a normal consequence of the effort, but the result of inward knee collapse. The quickest fix is to ask a physical therapist to recommend a set of exercises to strengthen your gluteal and hip muscles.