Becky Lyne is an ex-pro athlete and running technique specialist, who leads an running form analysis company called Gracefull Running. We asked Becky to provide her top five tips to help improve your running form, in turn helping you improve your running efficiency and reduce your risk of injury. Ultimately this will help you run more like a pro and as humans are designed!
The acronym 'GRACE' can help you remember the top five running form tips:
G for 'Grow'
Grow refers to you trying to hold your hips nice and tall as you run. By running 'tall', it'll help you as you run, to plant your feet more beneath your centre of mass - leading to you contacting the ground with your midfoot to forefoot. This helps to avoid, or reduce, the braking forces on the body as you run, caused by striking the ground with your heel out in front of you, or overly planting on your tiptoes too - both of which are associated with increased risk of injury. By landing under your centre of mass, it's more efficient too which leads to more energy rebound, while also activating your core and glutes more which are often describe as the 'powerhouse'. By ensuring your hips are in a strong position, it'll also allow your shoulders to relax more.
R for 'Rhythm'
Typically, runners operate best running at a rhythm, or cadence, of around 180 steps per minute (spm). This is the stretch recoil speed of tendons, ligaments and muscle fibres, so by running to this rhythm, or at this cadence, it provides almost a free source of energy. Rather than running with fewer, more powerful and longer strides, take shorter, faster steps and, once you're warmed up, try to hit 180 spm - you should be able to almost flow from one stride to the next.
A for 'Alignment'
Often runners will either bend forwards from the waist, or stay too upright, both of which lead to increased braking forces on your stride. Other common ways in which runners can be out of alignment are with the head jutting out, pelvis tilting forward and hips collapsing with each side causing energy to be absorbed by the body, rather than being used to propel you forward.
To hold optimal alignment as you run, imagine your body is a plank and you're simply leaning slightly forwards and up from the ankles. Running should start to almost feel like 'controlled falling' which is much smoother and more efficient.
C for 'Circle'
As you run, you should aim to create a wheel-like movement in your legs underneath you allowing you to generate more power by lifting your heels up behind you. But rather than trying to draw a circle with your heels, it will feel more like a piston motion up and down. The height to which you should lift your heels off the ground will be determined by how fast you're running - the faster you're running, the longer your strides will need to be and thus the bigger the circle you'll create. All while still trying to keep your cadence high like mentioned earlier!
E for 'Enjoy'
Finally, there is the fact that you still want to enjoy your running of course. This is more on the mental side of things, but it still affects the physical too. By relaxing and enjoying your run it'll help tie back into standing tall, 'growing' into the run and keeping those shoulders relaxed with the chest proud. Often those running with lots of stress, or when they're tired, will shrug their shoulders and hold more tension through their arms too. Aim for your arms to be at around a 90 degree angle at the elbow and create a relaxed pendulum swing from the shoulders (especially when endurance running!).
A nice mental trick to use to promote optimal relaxation is to approach your training with the mindset that you will 'let the effort come to you'. That way you ease into your running, and in prioritising GRACE before pace, almost paradoxically, you'll end up running faster!
How to learn more
If you're keen to learn more, Becky also provides a full running form analysis service through Gracefull Running. She's offered an exclusive discounted package for Runna users and as an introductory offer, you can find 25% off in the offers tab of your Runna app.