In this second instalment in our series with elite Swedish runner Ida Nilsson, she coaches us on how to develop a running technique that preserves energy and encourages speed.
We all dream of running fast and free. There’s something almost like the feeling of flying when we really find our stride and, barely touching the ground, run through a forest or city. Running is so natural, and we believe it should come naturally to all of us.
Thing is, yes, running is natural, but efficient running form is likely not. That takes time and effort to develop. It’s well worth our while because once we have mastered it our running will reach new levels, something we all aspire for. In this article, Coach Ida breaks down the anatomy of efficient running form.
Practice good posture
Running is like walking; everyone does it differently. But regardless of our particular style, the importance of good posture remains crucial to many activities, from running and walking, to surfing and yoga.
1. Get a lean on!
Coach Ida says a proper running posture involves neither being too upright in the upper body, definitely not leaning back, or leaning too far forward. There’s a golden mean, a sweet spot, that supports our running.
“If you run in flat areas, it’s really important to tilt your pelvis a little forward so you are not too upright,” Ida says. “But don’t lean too far forward either.”
When you tilt forward slightly you benefit from having gravity pull you forward, she says. It also means your feet land on the ground directly under your hips. This is important in two ways: it makes it easier to avoid landing on your heels, which applies a braking force, rather than building momentum. And it also reduces the strain on the upper legs, particularly the hip flexors.
“Not having a good running flow is often a big mistake among beginners,” Ida says. “Bad posture is tiring on the legs, and you go slower because you kind of have to start over with each step and use power instead of momentum.”
2. Keep your head up
Don’t fall into the habit of looking down at your feet when you’re running. Instead, Ida says look forward, about twenty m, in the direction you are going. “That is extra important when you run downhill and on uneven surfaces,” she says. “Look ahead so you can plan your steps.”
3. Pump your arms
Remember to relax the shoulders so they drop down below the ears. This will help your arms to relax. Everyone is different when it comes to how we swing our arms; some, like Ida, like holding the arms lower down, while others hold them higher. Ida says there is no strict right or wrong way. A rough rule of thumb is having the forearm at a right angle, or a little more, than the upper arms. “It’s not good if the arms swing too much out to the sides,” Ida says. “Try not to have any unnecessary movement.”
4. Good trunk mobility
“A lot of western runners are too stiff in the trunk,” Ida says. “We have more of a robot-like stride. If you watch African runners you will see they have more flexibility and mobility in the trunk, so they usually rotate more side-to-side.”
Ida does a lot of yoga and mobility training for her spine and hips to help her be more free and less rigid in her movements. She says a little bit of stretching after each run won’t help – dedicated training is required. Time to find a yoga teacher!
In this video, notice how Ida leans forward slightly when she runs, and how her feet land under hips on the mid foot. Practice this yourself.