Focus on fixing your form

  • This was printed in June of 2015 in The Madera Tribune, a newspaper in Madera, California. This was the 104th installment of my weekly column, Mind Over Miles.

Clicking through digital photos taken at various races can make a runner beam with

pride — or cringe. Is that really what I look like when I run?

06-04-15 MOM-Farin at JD half

Courtesy of Juan Esparza A photo of the columnist from the front, running the Judgment Day Half Marathon in Bakersfield in October, shows her arms crossing in front of the body and her neck and shoulders tensed.

Whether or not someone is taking a photo or video of you while you run, it is

important to be mindful and focus on your form — not just for the sake of looking

good, but to increase your speed and decrease your risk of injury as well.

To concentrate on your posture, it is essential to first eliminate any distractions and

get comfortable. Make sure your shoes are tied just the right way, wear comfortable

clothes that don’t ride up, chafe, or otherwise bother you. Wear socks that don’t slip

down.

Sunlight can make us not only squint, but also tense up our face, neck and shoulders.

Throw on a pair of lightweight sunglasses with non-slip silicone at the bridge — you

don’t want them sliding or bouncing off of your face.

Forgo music, at least until you develop your running form so much that it becomes

subconscious.

According to experts, the “correct” running posture looks like this: the runner is

leaning slightly forward at the ankles, landing on the balls of her feet. Feet strike

beneath the runner’s center of gravity, not in front of her. Hips are squared; legs

should pump back and forth with not much swiveling of the hips.

The shoulders are relaxed and pulled back, not rounded forward. Elbows are at 90

degrees. The back is straight. The chin is up, but not too high. Eyes are looking

forward toward the horizon.

06-04-15 MOM-Farin at TT5K

Courtesy of Juan Esparza The columnist runs the Turkey Trot 5K in November 2013. Although she is demonstrating pretty good form, her elbows are not at 90 degrees as they should be.

The best way to analyze your own posture, besides cringing at the photos taken at

your last race, is to have a friend record a video of you running, from the front, side,

and from behind. Replay the video at regular speed and then in slow motion to see

where you should make improvements.

In a profile video, pause it just before you push off from the ground. You should be

able to draw a straight line from your ankle, knee, hip, shoulder and earlobe about

15 degrees forward of vertical.

As you land, your feet should be under your center of balance, not jutting out in

front of you.

If you’re like me, your form will suffer as you get tired. When you’re feeling winded

or exhausted, focus on pulling your chest forward, which will help bring your

shoulders down and back. Shake out your arms and then reposition your elbows at

90 degrees.

Arms are important. I’ve seen people who run with their arms nearly straight down

at their sides, which turns them into dead weight. I’m guilty of swinging mine too

high; I’ve seen plenty of photos as I near the end of a race where my tight fists nearly

touch my collarbone. My neck also seems strained, like I’m clenching my jaw.

A lot of people, I’ve noticed that women especially, swing their arms across their

body, creating inefficient side-to-side movement and twisting.

Think forward momentum. Arms should swing backward to propel you forward.

Hands should pass about hip-height, not above the waist.

Drive your elbows downward instead of trying to pump your fists upward.

Follow the ‘potato chip rule’ for the hands — pretend you’re holding a potato chip

without crushing it to keep hands and arms relaxed.

In time, these movements will come naturally and you’ll see your pace improve and

injuries subside. Now lace up your shoes, grab a friend with a video camera or

smartphone and practice perfect posture!

06-04-15 MOM-Jesus Campos

Courtesy of Juan Esparza Elite runner Jesus Campos, of Fresno, demonstrates what good running form looks like, with a slight forward lean at the ankles and elbows bent at 90 degrees, at the Hell Of A Half Marathon in Exeter in August.

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