I have recently given some speeches in connection with my Toastmasters International membership. Some are related to running, and some are not. When possible, I will publish the speeches. This is one of them.
Like many others here at Progressive, I am a data person. Let me share some data with you. I have been running more or less regularly for over forty years. I’ve documented more than 93,000 miles. That’s getting close to 100,000, and it’s also close to four times the circumference of the earth. Not to mention 40% of the distance to the moon. I have written multiple articles about running for a national magazine, published a book, written a blog, served as a running club president and worked part-time at a running specialty store. Included in all those miles are over 100 marathons and over 30 ultramarathons. Is that enough to establish some credibility for this subject? And yet even with all those miles, I still try to improve my running form.
I know that some of you are thinking, “I’m not a runner. What do I care about running form?” But you are a runner. Maybe you don’t run every day. Maybe it’s been a long time since you have run. But you almost certainly did run when you were a kid. And you can and should run now. Running is natural for us human beings – as much as walking. In fact, running is more efficient. This is a good subject for another speech. You can expect to hear more about this particular topic in the near future.
Others of you are thinking, “I am a runner, but what do I need to know about running form? Isn’t it just putting one foot in front of the other?” Now we’re getting somewhere. Paying just a little attention to your running form can have a very positive effect. It can make you a more efficient and effective runner. Besides improved performance, you help reduce the possibility of sustaining an injury.
I mentioned that you ran when you were a kid. Almost everyone runs when they’re a kid. Next time you see kids running, pay attention to their running form. In fact, you may be able to picture it in your imagination right now. That form is nearly perfect, isn’t it? Kids – at least while they’re running - tend to have great posture, a light, efficient footstrike and fast cadence. These are the elements of good running form that I would like for you to take away from my speech today.
Everyone stand up. Your posture should be tall. You should reach for the sky with your head. Now lean forward just a little so that your heels are off the ground. Now pump your arms forward and back. Feels like you want to run, right? Your arms should be at a 90-degree angle, with your forearms facing out. But having said all that, you should be relaxed. Especially your hands and your face. You can practice these posture suggestions even without running.
Heel to toe is the best way to land, right? Wrong. Your foot should land directly underneath your body, and in about the middle of your foot. If it lands in front of you, you are over-striding. Faster runners do tend to have a longer stride, but the ones with good form still have their feet actually landing underneath their bodies. This ensures that you place less stress and weight on your landing. You will land more towards your mid-foot, rather than your heel. Less force on your feet and lower legs is always a good thing.
Finally, your cadence, or turnover, should be around 180 steps per minute. That seems like a lot, doesn’t it? Many of us do tend to take less. I believe I average between 160 and 170 steps. By taking more steps you can, but you don’t have to run faster. You can run smoother and with greater efficiency. You can actually count your steps – just count each time one foot hits the ground for a minute of running and then double it.
Please remember these things about good running form: Posture, footstrike and Cadence. But mostly, if you’re not running now, get out and do it!