Are You an Awkward Runner? 3 Tips to Improve Form

We’ve all seen it – the old guy walking with his feet, but running with his arms. Or the runner with the limp hands tucked into the rib cage, as if they’re failing flippers or clipped wings. How about the chick that looks like she should be running fast, but it’s like she’s in full on movie quality slo-mo. Sometimes, a person’s gait just looks odd, and we can’t even put our finger on what’s wrong – but we know something’s not right. Don’t be too quit to laugh – it could be you!

Do you know what you look like?
I remember the first time I saw myself running on video. In my mind, I was a cross between a deer and a cheetah. I envisioned myself with a nice long graceful stride, able to leap over obstacles with ease, running fast and strong like my spotted furry friend. Then I saw video and photographs that proved the deer-cheetah animal in me was nowhere to be found. My stride was short, despite my long legs, and it appeared that an old lady with a walker could have passed me at any given time.

I noticed the same thing when Steve and I were doing fitness tips on walking. I had the treadmill cranking (I thought), yet I looked like I was barely exercising. That’s when I decided to work on my stride and push my limits. I wanted to improve my gait, increase my arm swing and speed up my pace.

University of Hawaii’s track and field coach Carmyn James said, “Proper running forms are basically the same if you run a 12-minute mile or you are trying to sprint a 12-second 100-meter dash.” With that said, I believe we can learn a lot from sprinters.

Sprinting Your Way to Better Form

Arm Swing

I think many people just don’t use their upper body properly with their lower body. Often times the upper body is doing its own separate thing apart from the lower body. However, I believe, if you were being chased by a pit bull, I think your arms and legs would work in perfect harmony together in order to move you as fast and effectively away from harm. That’s why I think sprints are helpful to learn how to use your arms WITH your legs. Try sprinting with your arms dangling down by your side. Now THAT would be one awkward run!

Pace

Most people I see with awkward form are going slow. Mopey runners look like dopey runners. I can talk this way because I used to be that dopey runner. Sprints improve your pace and strength, which improves form. Many people look awkward just because they aren’t strong enough to run with the power necessary to move them forward correctly. Also, when you’re running with purpose, suddenly every body part moves with more purpose, forcing us to practice using our body as one effective unit. I use the RunKeeper to track my pace and push my limits. Sometimes I combine a slow jog with sprints, and other times I work on just keeping a steady faster pace for the whole run, concentrating on my form and stride. I’m no professional runner, but since I started becoming more aware of my pace, I’ve improved both my form and speed.

Posture

No one sprints with their head all hanging down and back hunched over. When I see people sprint, their body is all stretched out, body leaning slightly forward, head up and eyes forward and alert. Yet, when people jog, often times their neck sticks out, head hangs low, and back is slumped. Why? First, I think we are tired and holding good posture takes work, but another issue is our eyesight. When we jog or walk, we’re going slow so we are only concerned with what is right in front of us (hence the head and eyes down). Just think, our 8lb head puts a lot of strain on our neck as soon as it starts to tilt forward. Ouch! Sprinters, on the other hand, are moving so fast, they need to be more concerned with what lies ahead, so their head up. To have posture like a sprinter, keep your eyes focused on your path 10-20 feet ahead of you.

More Running Tips:

Runners Beware – 4 Things You Need to Know

10 Reasons You Want a Runners High

Runners Beware: Part 2 – How to Tweak Your Fitness

Motivation: Reason to Keep Running

Running Form Key to Success

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About Bonnie Pfiester

Fitness Columnist and Lifestyle Coach, Resident Trainer for Designer Whey, Fitness Advisor for FitStudio, powered by Sears, FitFluential Ambassador and Owner of Max Fitness Club, home of BCx Boot Camp in Vero Beach, Florida.

Posted on October 25, 2012, in Exercise & Training, PFIT TIPS, Running and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. This is a great article. I can’t agree more. The problem I used to really have with my running form was posture. I would get tired and my head would start to sag down. I would notice that I was running slower, had a harder time breathing and my neck hurt. It took a while but now I can finish my long runs without sagging my head. I have noticed an improvement in my times as well.

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