Running FAQs

Running doesn't have to be hard. Follow this advice and you'll be comfortable on the road or treadmill.
Running FAQs

Professional runners intuitively know how to run; they move efficiently and smoothly, with just the right amount of effort. The rest of us have to learn how.

But with some attention to form, you can be moving down the road comfortably, 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'll be upright as you run. 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 are walking or running too hard. However, if you can sing, you are probably not walking or running hard enough.

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 are using only muscle glycogen as fuel. When you run out of glycogen, you're shot. Slow down so you'll be more comfortable; you'll be able to exercise 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, back off and talk to your doctor.

Why should I lengthen the time and distance I run so gradually?
If you want excess weight to melt off your frame or you want to keep up with Mr. Jones on his 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.

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