While it may not feel that way when you are just starting a running program, according to scientists humans are by evolutionary design, born endurance runners.
"Running long distances is made possible by leg and foot tendons and ligaments that act like springs, foot and toe structure that allows efficient use of the feet to push off, shoulders that rotate independently of the head and neck to allow better balance, and skeletal and muscle features that make the human body stronger, more stable and able to run more efficiently without overheating" (Bramble & Lieberman, 2004).
While running is something that should feel natural for everyone with a little practice, there are a few things that will help a beginner run more efficiently.
- Keep your shoulders relaxed while running. Some beginning runners tend to lift their shoulders and doing so tightens the chest area and makes it hard to breathe properly.
- Keep your elbows bent at about 90-degrees so that when your arms swing back and forth your hands are at about hip level or slightly higher. As your arms swing forward they should be roughly in line with the body as opposed to moving back and forth across the body.
- Keep your hands relaxed. Don't make a tight fist. It creates tension making it difficult for you to run with relaxed form and that wastes energy.
- Believe it or not you have your own unique and individual running stride. Beginning runners shouldn't do too much toward trying to modify his or her natural stride because it is much easier to create problems than it is to increase efficiency. The one thing to guard against is trying to unnaturally increase the length of your stride to cover the ground faster. A natural short, quick stride is almost always the most efficient for most runners.
Since people generally breathe through their noses, some say that you should breathe through your nose while running. The truth is, as the legendary New Zealand running coach Arthur Lydiard once said, "Breathe through your mouth. Breathe through your nose. Suck the air in through your ears if you can." Lydiard was right. Think of the body as a machine that is powered by oxygen. The more oxygen you take in the better. It's perfectly fine to breathe through your mouth.
You may have to consciously focus on these things when you start a running program but very soon they will simply be engrained habit. All you have to do is to get out the door and run.
Bramble, Dennis, and Daniel Lieberman. "Born to Run." Nature 432.7015 (2004). Print.
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