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Good running form aligns all your joints optimally to create a smooth, efficient running gait.
Bad form results from misalignments or imbalances that restrict joints, which can lead to discomfort and even injury. These misalignments are often rooted in everyday habits—hunching over your keyboard, shortening your hip flexors by sitting at a desk all day.
Those rounded shoulders could lead to a cross-body (rather than front-to-back) arm swing, which may produce stress on your hips and knees. Those tight hip flexors may weaken your knees.
By doing certain dynamic stretches and strengthening exercises and remaining aware of your body movement while you run, you can avoid or address impediments to good running form.
Walking High-Knee Pulls
While standing, grab the base of the kneecap with both hands and pull upward, pausing for one second at the top of the movement to feel a complete stretch in the hip. Maintain upright body posture as you release the knee and step forward. Continue alternating legs until you have completed five repetitions for each.
Take one normal step with your right leg and forcefully swing your right arm in an arc from behind your body, around the top of your head. Simultaneously, drive your left leg up and straight out in front of you so that your outstretched leg and downward-swinging right arm tap one another, parallel to the ground, out in front of the body.
Complete the arm rotation and return your left leg to the ground. Repeat with the opposite arm and leg, taking normal-sized steps to initiate each. Five reps per leg.
Drive your left knee up toward your chest while simultaneously driving your right arm, bent, out in front of you, forearm parallel to the ground and level with your ribcage.
Drive your left arm (bent) behind you, until your left hand is level with the top of your right hip. Now take a step backward with the raised left leg, dropping your body down while keeping your chest up, and switching the position of the arms.
To stand back up, forcefully push off of your right (front) leg. Keep your arms in the same position and move into the next lunge, this time driving the right knee up toward your chest, switching your arms as you step back. Repeat until you have performed five backward steps for each leg.
You can also perform this exercise moving forward to add variety, flexibility, additional strength and increased stability.
Rest on your back, arms at your sides, palms on the ground. Lift your legs until they are at a 90-degree angle to your hip, keeping the knees bent. Tighten your core muscles to keep your lower back in contact with the ground.
Extend one leg out while the other remains in its flexed position. Do five to 10 reps per leg.
Pelvic Thrusts / Double-Leg Glut Bridges
Start on your back, knees bent and soles of your feet firmly on the floor. Press into your feet and lift your pelvis up, raising your butt off the ground and squeezing it at the top of the motion. Release and slowly come down. Repeat 10 times.
Side-Lying Leg Lifts
Lie on your left side and stack both legs, straight. Extend the bottom arm above your head. Keep your other arm and hand on the top hip. Slowly raise your top leg as high as it can go. Do 10 reps per leg.
Standing Band Row
Stand upright, knees slightly bent. Holding the band in each hand, retract your shoulder blades, then the elbow, pulling them back along your ribcage. Keep pulling until your back muscles are completely contracted around your spine. Slowly release back to the starting position. Do 15 reps.
Standing Cross-Band Reverse Fly
Anchor the band at about mid-torso height. Make sure your palms are facing each other and step back with your arms extended straight out in front of you, far enough to create tension on the band. Slowly open your arms away from one another until they pass your shoulders. Squeeze back until the shoulder blades are completely retracted. Slowly return to the starting position. Do 15 reps, three sets.
We would like to thank The Launchpad of Carbondale, Colorado, for the studio space, and the artists Stanley Bell and Takeo Hiromitsu for the backdrop.
This article originally appeared in the March, 2018 issue of Trail Runner. To subscribe, click here.