Mental Checklist During Runs

Posted on in Featured, Health + Lifestyle, Nature + Outdoors, Sports + Training by Matt Balzer

Forward lean. Photo by: Altra Running

Running is one of the most highly participated sports in the world, but very little time is spent on our running form.  In almost all other sports we spend hours perfecting the details of our golf swing, swim stroke, free throw, etc.  We might run many hours every week, but how often do we practice running properly?

There is no perfect running form, each person is different and their biomechanics will cause them to move in unique ways, but there is good form and bad form (or inefficient form).  The list below is a mental checklist I cover just before and during my run...

  1. Cadence – Long, stretched out running strides should be left at the finish line of our last 100 m dash. Quick turnover, or fast cadence is a must if you want to stay injury free as an adult distance runner.  Count the number of times your right foot hits the ground in a minute, anything over 85 is great and 90 should be the goal.  If you are very tall, your ideal number may be about 5 foot strikes per minute slower, and if you are very short your number may be 5 higher.  I recommend checking your cadence about every 15 minutes during your run using a simple watch.
  1. Forward Lean – Running is just controlled falling. Try this drill…  While standing still lean forward, only from the ankles, don’t break at the hips.  At just a few degrees of forward lean you will feel like you are going to fall over; that’s it!  Take off running and try to maintain that forward lean the entire time.  Every 10 minutes or so stop during your run and fall forward again.
  1. Arm Swing – Elbows at roughly 90 degrees, hands traveling from your hips to your chest and try not to cross the center line. Practice this in front of a mirror at the desired cadence of 90 beats per minute.
    Matt 1

    Arm swing. Photo by: Eliot Drake

  1. Heel or Mid Foot Strike – The great debate. Either foot strike is fine in my opinion as long as your feet land under your hips; reference numbers 1 and 2 above, for ways to accomplish landing under the hips.

Excellent running form is a constant work in progress, and as our bodies fatigue during a run our form gets worse.  Check back soon for some of my favorite strength exercises that will help you maintain great form for your entire run.  If you really want big improvements, hire a well-respected running coach that can work with you one on one.

Matt Balzer

Matt Balzer is the 2013 Xterra National Champion, having placed first overall amateur at the Xterra US Championships in Utah last September.

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