When you first start running, you feel absolutely invincible. The wind in your hair, your feet taking you faster than you ever thought possible. Running is one of the most freeing activities, and it’s an activity you can do any time of the day whenever you feel like it.
However, over time on your run, you can start to feel tired, achy, out of breath, and feeling like you couldn’t possibly run anymore. This is completely normal for beginner runners, but it isn’t a great feeling to have and can sometimes be off-putting when you’re thinking of heading out for a run.
Lots of beginner runners look for tips to help them develop their running styles and make running easier in the long term. We’ve gathered together some techniques for you to try and develop your running style, and applying these techniques straight away will prevent you from sliding back into old habits.
By applying these techniques, you will be sure to run faster, more confidently, and you will learn how to maximize your body’s strength.
Here we’ve put together some techniques that you can easily slot into your running routine to help make it easier, and by following these techniques, your running will improve in the long run.
Swing Your Arms Properly
When we think about running, we automatically think that our legs are what do all the work. In fact, a lot of our power when running comes from our arms.
The most common mistake when running is swinging your arms from your elbows, not from your shoulders.
You need to keep your shoulders still while swinging your arms as the movement should be coming completely from your arms. This will help with any neck or shoulder pain you are experiencing when running as your shoulders won’t need to move.
Keeping your arms at a 90-degree angle will make swinging your arms from your shoulders easier. Your arms won’t have to swing as much and you will be able to focus more on your running as you will conserve a lot of energy that you can channel into your running instead.
Another mistake made by beginner runners is swinging your arms across your body. This can cause injury to your back, so it’s important that you swing your arms backward.
This sounds really difficult, but once you try it, it feels a lot more natural than swinging your arms both backward and forwards
By swinging your arms backward, they propel your body forward, whereas swinging your arms in front of you can cause a loss of balance.
Only swing your arms backward as far as they can go, and if you have an existing arm or shoulder injury, don’t force your arm back.
Take your lead from your body and try to utilize these techniques as best you can without causing yourself further injury.
Focus on Improving Your Running Form
Your form when running is extremely important in helping you to lower your chances of injury and helping you to run faster. The correct running form will help you to feel stronger when running and is the key to helping you to develop your own running style.
The first step in improving your form when running is to make sure that you are running tall. By slouching when running, your core will not be engaged and this will affect your breathing. Running tall will increase your energy levels as you will be able to breathe properly and run for longer.
By straightening your back and shoulders when running, you will have much better balance during your run, as hunched shoulders can cause an imbalance. Good posture will help you to run faster and feel more confident and comfortable doing so.
Slouched posture when running can potentially cause your body some injury, so it is important to make sure that you try to minimize any risk of injury when exercising.
Your shoulders should be as relaxed as possible when running as tension in your shoulders can cause a lot of pain in the long run. Relaxing when running is very important as tension gets stored in your muscles and it will make it more difficult for you to run, so relaxing will help you run to the best of your ability.
Footstrike is the word used for how your foot hits the ground when you run. Now, you may not pay attention to how your foot lands when you’re running, but it is something to watch out for and try to improve.
There are 3 different footstrikes; heel footstrike, forefoot footstrike, and mid-foot footstrike. There isn’t a specific footstrike that is the dominant style to run in, but it is something you might want to be mindful of when running, especially if you are looking to improve on your running times.
Heel footstrike is when your heel is the first part of your foot to hit the ground, and it is the most common running footstrike.
This footstrike isn’t wrong, but it can cause shock waves through your legs and cause some long-term leg and hip damage. Although heel footstrike isn’t wrong, it isn’t the best footstrike for long-term running.
Forefoot footstrike is when your toes hit the ground first and are very common in uphill running. This footstrike causes tension in the lower halves of your legs, in your calves, and Achilles tendon.
This can also cause long-term damage to your legs, so isn’t an efficient footstrike for long-term running either.
A mid-foot footstrike is when the middle of your foot hits the ground first, and reduces long-term injury as it reduces the force on your legs. It causes the least stress on the muscles and the joints and is definitely the best footstrike for long-term runners.
Although there is no correct footstrike to have, a mid-foot footstrike is recommended as it greatly reduces injury in comparison to other footstrikes, and it minimizes the pressure on your muscles and joints.
Improving your footstrike to a mid-foot footstrike will help your joints and muscles in the long term, but there isn’t a correct footstrike to follow. To improve your footstrike, strengthening your hips and glutes will allow you to swing your leg further and land in mid-foot footstrike.
If you do not wish to improve your footstrike, just be mindful of any potential joint or muscle injury you could acquire.
Improve Running Cadence
Cadence is the number of steps you take per minute when running. Improving cadence can reduce the risk of injury as it all comes down to the lengths of your strides when running.
If you have a low cadence when running, you will be overstriding. This means that you’re extending your legs too far forward, and this becomes a factor in your footstrike. If you overstride, you most likely will have either a heel footstrike or a forefoot footstrike.
Improving your cadence will help you stop overstriding when running, which will lead to a midfoot footstrike. This is how improving your cadence reduces injury, as your mid-foot footstrike will stop pressure on your joints and muscles and will improve your running in the long term.
Increasing your cadence may feel impossible, but gradually increasing your steps per minute will result in a better running technique. Apps such as Audiostep and Cadence Trainer can help you increase your cadence by giving you beats to run to in order to improve your cadence.
You can also search for songs that have a certain number of beats per minute so that when you listen to the song when running, you can run to the beat to help you keep track of your steps per minute.
Strengthen Your Core
Strengthening your core will result in you being able to hold the proper running form for longer and helps you become a stronger and faster runner.
There are many core exercises that you can perform at home that will improve your running technique and help you feel stronger in yourself.
Plank and Side Plank
The plank and side plank helps your postural muscles, which helps to improve your posture when running. Normal plank takes place by holding your weight on your forearms and toes. Side plank is similar except you are supporting yourself on one arm.
Over time, you can increase how long you hold the planks when they start to become easier and make sure that you take slow and steady breaths when performing the planks to work your core.
Lying on your back, raise your chest off the floor and lift your knees up to your chest. Raise your arms forward and reach as far as you can, keeping in line with your toes.
Don’t arch your back at all during this exercise as your core will be holding you up, not your back. Hold the position for 30 seconds.
Once you feel the body hold getting easier, you can extend your arms over your head and hold your legs up in a vertical position. These positions really help to strengthen your core as you are relying on your core to hold up your arms and legs.
Bicycle kicks are another easy core strengthening exercise that helps your abdominal muscles as well as your glutes. Lying on your back, raise your leg towards your chest and bend the leg as close as it can get to your chest whilst extending the other leg off the floor.
Alternate the legs, and repeat for as long as you want. When practicing these exercises, you may feel a burning pain in your stomach which is your core muscles working.
Practicing these exercises will help strengthen your abdominal muscles and help you run for longer, and you can increase the time you do this exercise the easier it gets.
V-ups are also great at keeping your core engaged, as you lie on your back with your arms behind your head and your legs straight in the air. Lift your upper body towards your legs, lower yourself back down, and repeat.
V-ups are more challenging as you have to lift the weight of your arms and legs with your core, but it’s extremely beneficial in strengthening your core. You can also try holding the position or repeating the exercise for longer if you find the exercise too easy when starting.
Mountain Climbers are really good at working not just your core muscles, but also your shoulders, hips, and upper legs. Position yourself in a press-up position with your arms straight below your shoulders.
Raise one leg up to your chest and then bring it back to the press-up position. Repeat with the other leg as many times as you want and you can work on the speed of your mountain climbers, starting off slowly and building up to a faster movement.
Superman pulls help lower back pain as well as strengthen your core. Lying face down on the floor, reach your arms forward, and lift your legs off the floor whilst engaging your core.
From this position, reach your arms back and extend them out in front again, and repeat. This exercise will help strengthen both your core and your back, and it will also help to relax your shoulder muscles while warming them up.
Lie on your back and place your feet near your lower back. Bring your hips up towards the ceiling, making sure that your back isn’t arched and there is a straight line from your shoulders all the way down your spine.
Hold the raised position for 30 seconds and slowly bring your hips back down to the floor, and repeat this position 5 times.
Once you feel comfortable doing this exercise, you can work on practicing a single-leg glute bridge. This is when you raise your hips off the ground with one leg extended out in front of you and the other placed on the floor with your foot near your lower back.
Monitoring your breathing when running can seem difficult to keep track of, but you need to utilize your diaphragm to get more air into your lungs.
Deep breaths help you take more air into your lungs from your diaphragm, whereas shorter breaths have you relying too heavily on your chest muscles.
There are ways you can practice breathing from your diaphragm at home. Lying down on the floor, focus on raising your stomach when you inhale, and lowering it as you exhale.
You can try this exercise when sitting up and standing too. This will help you begin to use your diaphragm and take pressure off of your chest when running, and the deeper breaths will help you not get tired so quickly.
There are lots of techniques to help beginner runners improve their style of running before they even begin, and by starting early, you are less likely to revert back to bad running habits.
By making small changes such as improving your posture and breathing deeper, you will instantly improve your running style.
Although there is no correct footstrike to run with, it is important to focus on achieving a mid-foot footstrike so that you can reduce the risk of injury, both long-term and short-term.
Working on improving your cadence will help you transition into mid-foot footstrike and will help you run better overall.
Strengthening your core will help you hold your proper running form for longer, and your stronger muscles will help you to run faster and properly utilize your breathing. By applying these techniques, you will be running to the best of your ability.
Frequently Asked Questions
Am I able to change my footstrike to a mid-foot footstrike?
Yes. The change won’t happen overnight, but there are definitely ways in which you can help train yourself to start to run in a mid-foot footstrike.
You can download apps to help you improve your cadence which will result in less overstriding and will help train yourself to run in mid-foot footstrike.
Why is it important to use your core muscles during running?
When you use your core muscles during exercise, they take pressure off your spine and reduce injury. When you engage your core, you make it easier for your body to activate other muscles.
Your engaged core can transfer power to other muscles in your body, getting the most out of your workout and strengthening your body overall.
Why do I get out of breath when I run?
Beginner runners often feel like they are getting out of breath because they are running too fast, but it could be down to shallow breathing.
Shallow chest breathing is when you’re solely relying on your chest muscles when you’re breathing during running when you should be using your diaphragm to breathe deeper.
Practicing deep stomach breathing will help you get more air into your lungs when you run, and the more practice you do, the easier it will be to transfer to exercise.