“I run because if I didn’t, I’d be sluggish and glum and spend too much time on the couch. I run to breathe the fresh air. I run to explore. I run to escape the ordinary. I run…to savor the trip along the way. Life becomes a little more vibrant, a little more intense. I like that.”
– Dean Karnazes
I’m an avid reader. I’ll consume just about anything as long as it’s interesting and holds my attention. Running is one of those subjects I can’t seem to get enough of. And I’ve read a lot of books on form, injuries, stories about personal achievements, and everything in between. And I’ve read a lot of running tips.
While I can’t remember everything I’ve read, there are some things which have stood out and I try to practice when I’m running.
Some of these running tips are basic and are may be well known while others may not. I guess it’s all dependent on your level of experience. Yet, they have helped my form, speed, and helped decrease the frequency of my injuries.
So I figured I would share what I’ve learned in the hopes it may help someone else.
Most of these are form related running tips. And, as always, they may not work for you. I’m also not an expert, so these may not be the best of the best of the best (Men In Black reference). But I like them.
Let’s get started, shall we?
In no particular order, here are my top 10 favorite running tips:
Eyes towards the horizon — while running, your eyes should be focused toward the horizon. This puts your head in line with the rest of your body. Your eyes should not be looking down, but also not looking at the sky. That would get tiring. And you might step on something you don’t want to. If your eyes are looking up or down, this also influences your head position.
Wear sunglasses —recently, I switched to wearing sunglasses all the time. I used to go without them, even in the Arizona sun. But the tip I read stated wearing sunglasses reduces upper body tension due to not having to squint from the sun. I haven’t worn them long enough versus not wearing them to make a comparison, but other than the tan line from the glasses, I don’t see a drawback.
Run tall — this is perhaps the hardest for me to do, especially when I’m tired. But I’ve found when I get tired, if I start to “run tall”, my form becomes much better and I’m able to run smoother. Running tall helps you stop slouching and get into a more relaxed position during your run.
Hands should brush your hips — what your arms are doing is just as important as what your legs are doing. Have you ever tried to run without moving your arms? Besides looking funny, it’s not that easy. The one tip which has helped my upper body form is gently brushing your hands along your hip/waist as your arms move back and forth.
Run quiet — this has helped my form a lot. Running “quiet” or “soft” allows you to spend less time on the ground and reduces impact. I do this by trying to land on my mid-foot instead of the heel and getting my foot underneath me instead of in front. This takes practice like everything else but can be very beneficial to your form, speed, and prevention of injuries.
Arms move in the direction you are going — I know what you are thinking, this is something which is impossible not to do. But many runners move their arms across their body which can rotate your torso and shoulders. This diverts energy from where you need it most. While your arms shouldn’t look like a rock ‘em sock ‘em robot, they should mostly go forward and backward, not across your chest.
Push elbows back — by pushing your elbows back, your arms come forward naturally. Concentrate more on the back swing instead of the front swing. The swing should also originate from the shoulders.
Relax — this is hard. But your shoulders, hands, head, face, or wherever you hold tension should be scanned while you run. Do a body scan of yourself while you are running and observe where you are holding tension. Then relax. Do these throughout your run and remember to stay “loose”.
It’s all about the hips — probably the one thing which has helped me the most is enacting a routine of stretching my hips. Our balance and drive while running comes from the hips and if they are weak or inflexible, this can not only cause injury but also reduce power. So add hip stretches several times a week along with your regular routine.
Have fun — the most important tip of all is to have fun. Whether you are an occasional runner, an ultra-marathoner or a beginner, enjoy the gift of running and remember you are only in competition with yourself.
There are thousands of running tips out there and I could probably list another 50, but I think this is a good start. These have helped me become a better runner and I hope they do the same for you.