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FITNESS Check your running form


Running tall – proper foundation for running

Paul O’Brien

Foundations are important. You wouldn’t build a house without them for fear of it coming down on your head. Yet, how many of us think about our ‘foundation’ when we lace up our running shoes for a training run? Running without a solid foundation is like building a house on soft ground – eventually the cracks will show and the structure may even crumble.
A solid base in running comes from your running form. This refers to how you carry yourself while moving and how your body is ‘set-up’ for running. A good place to start is to check your posture while running.
It’s a good idea to have a friend take some short video footage of you. Place two cones 20 metres apart and record yourself running repeats between these cones at your normal pace. Run normally, not changing anything and try to forget about the camera. About 5 minutes will be enough to give you the footage you want at this point. Then, review the footage and ask the following questions:

Are you relaxed?
If not, then on your next run scan your body to release tension from your muscles. In particular, check your shoulders, hands and facial muscles. Mentally, tell these muscles to relax during your run. Tensing your muscles diverts much-needed energy from your lower body. A trick I use is to mentally relax all my muscles at intervals while out running.

Are you running tall?
Check your torso position to ensure you are not leaning forward on flat ground. Leaning forward constricts the flow of blood and oxygen around your mid-section, ultimately affecting your lower body movement. It's also bad for your posture. You should imagine the crown of your head connected to the sky by an invisible string and your chin slightly tucked in.
Are you striking correctly?
Try hit the ground about mid-sole instead of heel-first. A mid-sole foot strike will more evenly absorb the impact of the ground forces, making injury less likely. This is particularly true if you are overweight. If you experience lots of lower limb pains and strains, have your foot strike assessed. This will also help in identifying the type of shoes you should be using.

Where are your hands?
Keep your elbows bent at around 90 degrees. Your hands should brush along your hips as you run, moving from the shoulder.

How are you breathing?
Most people only think about this when they start to run out of breath. Short gasping in-breaths and explosive out-breaths will not deliver adequate oxygen to your working muscles. A good drill to improve you breathing is ‘breath repeats’. Start by measuring your breath over five paces while jogging. Try to breathe in for two paces and then out for three paces.
Repeat this drill during your training runs. You may need to slow down to achieve it, it’s worth the effort. When you have mastered it, you can then repeat the drill at higher speeds.

Good running form will mean fewer injuries, a greater sense of relaxation during your running and your improved technique will allow you to make quicker gains in your training.

Paul O’Brien is a certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise and a qualified life coach. He runs his own business in Westport and is the creator of Bootcamp West, an exciting and challenging exercise programme in Westport. For details of upcoming classes, visit or e-mail or telephone 086 1674515.