I like my gym time with my Equinox trainer Lauren, but recently we took a field trip and ran outside. It was a glorious day for speed work on San Francisco's Embarcadero; hard work is always easier under a blue sky. While running faster than I ever would on my own, Lauren gave me a few basic tips on form that helped me and just might help you too.
- Keep your shoulders relaxed. Sounds simple, but as you run faster and breathe harder it's easy for the shoulders to creep up toward your ears. And when that happens everything just feels harder, making it difficult to slow down and control your breath pattern. Not in touch with your shoulders? Check your hands. If you're clenching your fists, chances are high your shoulders are tense. A nice deep exhale will help your shoulders fall away from your ears.
- Don't be afraid to move your arms. Our nervous system remembers back to a time when we walked on all fours, so our legs are affected by the motion of our arms. A nice easy arm swing will help your feet move. And similarly, if you need to pick up your pace, pump your arms quickly and your feet will follow.
- Beware of your push-off. This might be a little specific to me, but Lauren noticed I was using my feet to push off, which works the calf. Rather than pushing the ground away to take a step, it is more efficient to bring the heel toward your bum to engage the hamstring, which is larger and more powerful than the calf. This also helps accelerate your stride turnover (aka cadence, how many steps you take per minute), making you a more efficient runner.