Physiotherapist Tim Hilden has analysed the form of more than 1 700 runners.
The bad news: Many of us have flaws that can slow us down or lead to injury.
The good news: Some flaws are fixable. Get into the good habits.
SWING ARMS FORWARD AND BACK
Moving your arms across your body can produce a similar torque in your legs, setting you up for injury. So think about elbowing someone behind you. And avoid moving your hands more than 20cm from your body.
Drill: Stick two labels on your running top, on the side of your ribcage a couple of cm below your chest. Perform 50m warm-up sprints, focusing on drawing your shoulders back and swinging your upper arms forward and back to touch the labels.
RELAX YOUR SHOULDERS
Hunching your shoulders up by your ears uses valuable energy and limits arm movement. Keep them down and relaxed.
Leaning too far forward puts pressure on the lower back and the front of the knees (potentially leading to runners knee). Run upright, and if theres a slight lean in your stride, it should start from the ankle, not the waist.
Drill: Stand on the balls of your feet, just less than shoulder-width apart, and use your abdominal muscles to control your posture for 60 seconds while keeping your balance.
If you can hear the slapping of your footfalls, you’re landing with too much forceforce that the body must absorb. The added impact increases injury risk because it exacerbates whatever weaknesses you have in your legs.
So run tall and close to the ground (i.e. reduce the amount of bounce in your stride), and think light. Developing the quadriceps is fundamental to controlling this flexion and minimising the shock.
Drill: Squats. Keeping your arms at your sides, bend at the hips and knees to lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor, then press back up. Take three seconds to lower yourself, hold for two seconds, and take three seconds to press up.
Perform three sets of 10 reps.
DONT CROSS THE LINE
Beware the crossover gait. If you imagine a line between your legs as you run, you need each foot to land on either side of that line. If they cross it, you’ll naturally be landing more on the outside of your foot.
The resulting excessive pronation will add stress to’your muscles and tendons. Control your foot plant, and youll encourage better form up through your ankles, knees and hips.
Drill: Find a line on a track or sportsfield, and run eight 100m reps, keeping your feet on either side of the line. Itll feel like speed skating, where youre pushing off to the outside.