5 Ways to Become a Better Runner

Whether you love running or hate it, chances are it’s found its way into your workout routine. Many a medical doctor has promulgated the benefits of being a runner and jogging. I’ll let you assume away as to which category I fall into.

Like everything else in your fitness regimen, there is a right and wrong way to run. Many people—even those who run frequently—don’t realize that their running technique is a skill that needs to be worked on. However, poor running form can lead to a plethora of problems, including shin splints, pulled hamstrings and ankle and knee injuries. That being said, running is very important to your cardiovascular health, and of course it is a great exercise for building up endurance and burning calories. Because of the many benefits of running, you don’t want to exclude it from your workout routine just because of the risk for injury. Instead, here are a few tips for developing a proper running technique that will protect you from injury and keep you running for years to come:

1.      Develop a good running cadence. The problem with a lot of runners is they spend too much time with their feet on the ground. When you’re running, think about spending the least amount of time on your legs as you can. The ideal cadence promoted by Running Coach Jack Daniels in the 1980s is 180 steps per minute, but this can be pretty steep for slow runners. Just focus on moving your legs as quickly as you can and remember that the less time you spend with your feet on the ground, the better.

2.      Keep your feet underneath you. Unless you’re doing short sprints for speed, you shouldn’t be taking epically long strides during your runs. Your legs need to be bent enough while you’re running to promote good circulation and prevent knee and hamstring injuries. Keeping your feet under you and not in some crazy semi-split position will protect your lower body from becoming mangled.

3.      Pay attention to your foot strike. Generally, there are two main ways for your foot to strike the ground when you run: heel strike and forefoot strike. There are proponents for both methods of running, and there’s plenty of inconclusive research on the matter. As far as the impact force of your strike goes, however, forefoot striking has been shown to have very minimal impact force, which makes it overall gentler on the body. When you’re running, be aware of how your foot is striking the ground. If you’re a heel striker and you’re noticing significant strain on your body, particularly knees and hamstrings, try playing around with your strike a bit and see if landing closer to the front of your foot helps alleviate the pain.

4.      Build up your mileage. If you just started running, it’s probably not the greatest idea to sign up for a half marathon in two weeks. Follow the 10 percent rule: up your mileage by no more than 10 percent each week.

5.      Do a dynamic warm-up before you run, but don’t stretch! This might seem counter-intuitive because your middle school gym teacher probably had you stretching before you ran the mile, but it is actually not recommended. Instead, focus on a warm-up that improves your range of motion and loosens the muscles you’ll be using during your run, like high knee walking/jogging and butt kicks. If you feel an area tightening up after you’ve completed your run, that’s the time when you can go ahead and stretch it out.

Remember that running is an integral part of a good workout regimen. Whether you’re just trying to remain healthy or you’re training for a triathlon, you are going to encounter running. Instead of dreading the run itself or the pain you anticipate will come after, keep these tips in mind and work on building up a good running technique that will leave you satisfied with your effort and feeling pain-free.

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