- 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?
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
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
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.
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
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!