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Everyone dreams of running the perfect race but not everyone has the drive to work on their running form. That’s a shame, because when it comes to marathon running, form is incredibly important. If you can perfect your form then you have a much better chance of getting the time you want at your next marathon.
To help you along, consider five effective tips for improving your running form:
#1: Stay off your heels.
Never extend your leg out so far that your foot lands on the heel. Many beginner and casual runners do this and they end up with shin splints, back pain and a whole host of other problems. When you are training longer distances for marathon running, you have to make sure you are not landing on your heel. This will not only make your running stronger, but it will make training more comfortable on your body and reduce your chances of injury.
Aim to bring your foot down on the front ball or land flat-footed. This will give you the strongest spring off for smoother run and will protect your joints and muscles from strain.
#2: You are not a kid hopping puddles.
Did you ever try to jump over large rain puddles when you were a kid? When you try to leap over a large area and make it fully to the other side before you hit ground, it is natural to stretch your front leg out as far as possible. You are reaching.
Proper running form does not reach like that. You are not trying to make it over the puddle and there is no reward for taking the longest strides. Your strides must be adequate to keep your body propelling forward with consistent speed and grace, but you don’t want to look like a ballet dancer leaping through the air.
If you are over reaching in stride you will be forced to land on your heels. That is one way of determining if your stride is adequate or beyond what is necessary.
#3: You are not a camel.
You can’t go back to hopping puddles and you can’t act like a camel in marathon running, either. Some runners want to hunch forward too much when they run, creating an unnatural posture and throwing the body off-balance. This can be bad for your back and very bad for your time.
While focusing on your running form, try to stay as upright as possible. You can lean just a little forward if it helps you feel centered and balanced, but this should not be a hunched position. Keep the bumps out of your back and shoulders!
#4: Don’t bounce your way through training.
Next time you head out for a run, pay attention to the amount of bounce you have in your stride. If you feel you are bopping up and down just as much as you are propelling your body forward, then you are too much like the Easter bunny and not enough like a successful marathon runner.
All that extra bounce is going to do is eat up your energy so you have less to give to your training. Marathon running is incredibly demanding on your energy, so this is a very important aspect of running form to correct if you feel it applies to you.
#5: Keep your body strong and lean.
It is very difficult to perfect your running form if you don’t have the lean muscle to sustain that perfect posture. Similarly, if you are eating the wrong foods or packing on the pounds you won’t have the energy needed to sustain marathon running with proper running form.
Besides getting out there for your training sessions, you have to cross train. Add in some strength training for your upper body so your arms and chest balance out the muscle that naturally develops in your legs, buttocks and hips. Do other forms of cardio exercise that burn fat and keep your body tone, limber and ready for the road.
When you run short distances, you might do fairly well without focusing on running form. Once you cross into the longer distance and take up marathon running that form becomes far more important. It can control the impact felt on your joints and muscles and give you a smoother stride. In the end you will find it easier to keep to your marathon pace and make your goal time in an upcoming race.