By Steve Sisson, owner and Team Rogue coach
Just as the natural pattern of breathing is unique to every individual, the basic biomechanical tendencies of each person will be unique. Initially, it is important to run in a manner that feels comfortable. Most people get into trouble when they try to run with what they consider ideal form and thus disturb their natural flow. Rather than look around at another person’s form, attempt to dial in on what feels good to you. After a few weeks, you can begin to work on a few basic principals that will help fine tune your particular style.
You can divide these principals into three distinct areas: the lower leg (below the knees), the core (from your upper legs to your ribcage) and the arm swing (head, shoulders, arms and hands.) The most important area of concern, in terms of injury, is the lower leg. Wherever the feet go, the rest of the body will follow. The feet should point straight ahead, not toeing in or out. By pointing the feet straight down the road, your knees and hips remain aligned. You should initially practice working on keeping your feet straight ahead when you walk or stand, paying particular attention to the mild strain that this causes to your hip and gluteus muscles. As the tension reduces on these areas, transition to focus on your feet pointing straight ahead while you run. The reason for this slow transition is to minimize the chance of injury from trying to change your basic technique. Once the feet point straight down the road, the likelihood of sustaining a knee, hip lower back injury reduces significantly.
Also focus on the core of your body, which will help in general strength and stability. Eastern meditation and fighting traditions emphasize a strong core as both the foundation of power and balance. You can attain this through the very basic methods of sit-ups, crunches, back extensions, flutter kicks, leg extension and the like. Develop a regimen that works for you, and incorporate it into your weekly schedule.
The other basic area you should focus on in terms of form is your arm swing. The best way to visualize proper arm swing is to imagine a line drawn directly up from your belly button through your eyes. This is your center, and you want all limbs to remain on the correct side of the line. Your shoulders should always point straight ahead, rather than rotate across your center. Your arms should ideally track directly forward and back with the elbows tight against the torso. If your elbows point out to the side, you can guarantee that your arms will swing across your center as you begin to fatigue. You want to limit this, if not eliminate it altogether. Hold your hands loosely in a fist, with plenty of space between the fingers and the palm. This will increase your level of relaxation. Do not clench your fists.
Implement these basic principals of form slowly and only after you gain comfort
with your natural biomechanics.