What is the correct running form?
Have you ever watched a real runner and their seemingly effortless and perfectly correct running form?
Runner body types and their lean body, long legs seem to have perfect form. But is there really a right way to run? The perfect runner form? The short answer, not really.
What does “correct” mean?
To say that a certain running form is correct deserves some explanation.
In Major League Baseball, most pitchers have a similar form. So much so that when you see something different you sit up and take notice. One example is a pitcher named Chad Bradford who pitched for the Oakland A’s. His delivery is unconventional and different, but not incorrect. He still struck out batters and won games, just in his own unique way. The same thing is true for running form.
The reason a certain running form is considered “correct” is that it helps:
- Increase speed
- Reduce the chance of injury
Your particular running style will have personal nuances that make it unique to you. The form that will help you to be more efficient, with greater speed and lower probability of injury, is backed by years of testing, science, and data.
Your correct running form
You are an individual chubby person with unique qualities and style.
Instead of trying to fit you into the perfect running form box. I’ll explain the reasoning and science behind certain components of running that may help you stay healthy, injury-free, and running for years to come. You can incorporate them into your current style, gait, and form to see if they work for you.
Bring your own running form
Your running gait plays a part in the many health benefits of running. It allows you to run longer distances at a higher intensity without pain or threat of injury.
Proven and tested form
There are some proven and tested techniques that may differ slightly from your current body mechanics. Keep in mind that you may have picked up or maintained some bad running habits along the way. That’s fine. Take what you’ve got and added to it.
Correct running form techniques
Here are some suggestions to enhance your running form to improve your running efficiency, increase speed and performance, and lower the risk of serious injury.
Techniques to improve efficiency
Let’s first define “running efficiency.”
Improving running efficiency has to do with the inputs and outputs. Here’s an example to illustrate. Have you ever tried to drive a car without knowing the emergency brake was on? Your car just wasn’t functioning well and you had no explanation as to why. When you realize that the brake was on and you release it, how much better did the car drive? A lot better and it happened immediately. Running efficiency is similar. You may be putting more effort into a jog and just feel wiped out.
Loosen your body
Do you clench your hands when you run?
The closed fist is a very proper running style. It’s kind of the default form for many new runners. It might seem like a small thing, but it can actually lead to other issues.
Clenching fists creates muscle tension in your arms and neck. The tension of contracting muscles leads to fatigue over time. For chubby people, we need all the help we can get and can’t afford to expend energy in other areas of the body. The energy from contracting your neck and arms could be used by your legs and lungs.
Here are some tips to help loosen your upper body.
- Keep your hands loose – pretend you are holding a butterfly with your thumb and pointer finger.
- Relax your arm swing – loosen your arms, pretend they are gummy arms.
- Let your arms swing by your sides – avoid crossing your arms in front of your body.
Avoid the slump
Some runners look down and slump their shoulders.
This is another posture that most people don’t think about. It has to do with the arm and neck tension. Loosening up your neck and shoulders and looking forward instead of down will help transfer some potential energy loss to other areas.
Puff up your chest
Be a proud and confident runner.
Broaden and lift your chest while you run. Draw your shoulders back. This combination will release tension in the torso, transfer that energy to your legs, and allow you to breathe much easier.
Correct running for improved speed
Speed is one of those things that requires patience. Practicing correct form, releasing the tension, and building confidence comes with time. Building blocks for a healthier, stronger chubby runner.
Engage your core
With additional speed comes a greater focus on form. Leaning slightly forward at the waist and engaging your core muscles to give you explosive force and a more powerful stride.
Stride for speed
As you begin to pick up speed, your body will use more stored energy to keep you going. In a higher-speed situation, it’s important to find simple ways to conserve energy to maintain a steady endurance level.
One way to do this is to focus on short, fast strides as a way to conserve energy. This may take time to retrain yourself away from long strides, but once you do you’ll really see an improvement in your speed and also your longevity.
One thing you will find as you begin to pick up speed is that your whole body is actively involved in supporting the legs and feet while you run. The solid core, a puffed-out chest, and short strides help to conserve energy and help you go further, longer.
Your arms play an active role in propelling your body forward. They work to give your body momentum and forward movement. Here are a few tips to get you started.
- Bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle
- Exaggerate your arm movement, straight back and forth
- Your hands should reach your chin in the front and your low back
- Try to prevent your torso from turning
Correct running form to avoid injury
The thing that hurts any chubby runner’s momentum more than anything is injury. Especially if you are well into your training program and ramping up your daily mileage, any kind of injury is like a sucker punch to the gut. So debilitating.
I was training for a marathon and was 90% through my training. I tried to run through the pain of an old injury and I slipped off a curb and twisted my knee. I’d already done a 20-mile training run and the race was 2 weeks away. The injury derailed all that hard work and training. It was quite depressing. I don’t want you to repeat the same mistakes so I’ve compiled some simple ways to prevent injury so that you can accomplish all your chubby runner hopes and dreams.
You gotta crawl before you can walk.
Many newer chubby runners get into running, get excited about their progress and rush into the next phase. When you go from never running at all to running a 10 miler, that is incredibly rewarding and exciting. Believe me, I get it. Just remember this is a gradual process. Going too hard too fast can cause injury and you don’t want that. Here are some ideas to help.
Increase the frequency of your runs, gradually. If you’re running 2 days a week and feel pretty good, start running 3 days. Add 1 more day of running at a time.
Build up your speed and mileage over time. Go from a 1-mile run to a 1.5-mile run, not a 3 or 4-mile run. Pace yourself.
This process takes time. Reward your small wins. Congrats you did it. Keep in mind this is a literal marathon, not a sprint.
It’s ok to pump the brakes.
When I first started running, I got excited about my progress. It feels good to overcome physical and mental obstacles and accomplish something that seemed impossible. That excitement is encouraging and motivating.
The trap that I ran into was thinking that if I run 3 days a week and feel great, running 6 days a week must feel even greater. That statement is false. I found that out the hard way. That rationale got me an ankle injury.
Running is a process that takes time. It’s gradual steps over a long period of time. The downtime and breaks are actually good for your mental and physical body to recover, rest and relax. And the downtime is even more necessary if you have injuries or muscle aches.
Your feet are a huge part of correct running form
Be good to your feet and they will carry you far.
As you know, your feet are one of the biggest factors in running. They get you from here to there. They are the running vehicles. Take care of your feet by wearing good shoes, practice running form that helps your feet, and give them the rest they need to recover.
Good shoes are important
I’ve written about the importance of running shoes in other articles. They are the best investment you’ll make into your running career. Get good running shoes, especially for your individual, unique feet, and replace them often.
Avoid heel strike
As a way to prevent leg injury, avoid hitting the ground with your heel. This causes your leg to slow your stride and adds stress to your knee.
Try to land on your midfoot instead of your heel. Running is already jarring to your joints, but the midfoot strike allows your foot to land directly under your hip as you drive your body forward. Try to land softly for minimal impact.
Ways to implement correct running form
The whole idea is to take your own running personality and add good, science-backed, proven ideas to improve your form.
Certain exercises and stretches can strengthen the muscles involved in running and make you a healthier happier chubby runner.
Exercises to strengthen your core, like planks or glute bridges such as glute bridges help with balance, and stability while lowering your chance of injury and overuse.
Loosen head and neck with exercises to build and maintain good posture and reduce tension and muscle contraction.
Practice aligning your breathing with the rhythm of your feet. This also helps reduce muscle tension and efficient energy use.
The bottom line
As I said, there is not a correct running form. So much of our running reflects our personalities. Don’t get rid of that. Stay true to yourself. Just add some tips to help give yourself a much-needed boost.
Give it a try, it may just take your running to the next level.