Even if you haven't run since high school gym class, with this expert advice you'll be off and running in no time.
Professional runners seem intuitively to know how to run; they move efficiently and smoothly, with just the right amount of effort. For the rest of us, it can seem like an impossibly complicated pursuit.
But with some attention to form, you can take off down the road with your own unique style. Here are the answers to frequently asked questions that will tell you how to improve your runs.
What's the proper form for running?
Ideally you should be upright. That means your head should be over your shoulders, your shoulders over your hips, and your hips aligned above your knees and feet. Relaxation is key: Relax your jaw, lower your shoulders, and hold your hands loosely.
Elbows should be slightly bent and your arms should swing forward and back, not diagonally across your chest. Let your legs and core muscles (pelvis, hips and buttocks) do the work. If your form falls apart, stop running and walk.
How hard should I run?
Give yourself the talk/sing test, says Doug Kelsey, PhD, PT, chief physical therapist at Sports Center in Austin, Texas. During your brisk walking or running segments you should be able to talk in sentences. If you can only gasp out two or three words you're walking or running too hard. However, if you can sing, you probably aren't walking or running hard enough. Don't get disheartened if your ability to talk in sentences starts waning after only a short time. If you're an absolute beginner to running, you may well find yourself having to work harder than you anticipated.
I'm alternating walking and running, but I have a hard time starting up running after a walking segment. Am I lazy?
Not at all. Just reduce the intensity of your running segments; you may be running too hard, says Kelsey. If you're depleted and out of breath, the intensity of your exercise is too strong, he says; you're using only muscle glycogen as fuel. When you run out of glycogen, you're shot. Slow down so you'll be more comfortable so you can exercise for longer and burn more calories.
Hey, this hurts! What's up?
Your body is changing. Give it a chance! That said, pain that gets worse during or after a run could be an injury. If you're experiencing that kind of pain, ease off and talk to your doctor.
Why should I lengthen the time and distance I run so gradually?
If you're hoping that excess weight will melt off your frame or you want to keep up with your triathlete pal on her morning run, you could develop injuries or frustrate yourself by setting unreachable goals. Instead, focus on the changes that you get every day from the workout you are doing: better sleep, less of an appetite, safe and gradual weight loss. That said, you can work out on non-running days, says Kelsey, just choose a non-impact activity such as cycling, swimming or deep water running. And, he says, always rest from exercise completely for one day a week to give your body a chance to recover.