Natural Running Technique
The most important parts of running naturally and possibly the biggest change you will make is that your foot contact has to be under your body – not in front. If you can see your feet hitting the floor then they are too far in front of you. Also your cadence will have to increase and reduce how much vertical motion you have.
To start with just stand and adopt the following position:
- You need to be centred with gravity. Knees and ankles slightly bent, head upright and eyes forward, slight forward lean from the ankles.
- Lean slightly further forward and lift one foot – you will start to fall forward
- Put leg back on ground as you lift the other leg.
- Land lightly under your body (sensing the ground) allow the heel to settle then immediately lift that leg to start a new stride.
- Repeat with fast cadence and bring in the timing of the rest of your body.
- Upper body should be straight from hips to shoulders and engage your core
- Lift your knee to start a new stride
- Shoulders back and arms at 90 degrees in a plane parallel to your body
- Hand relaxed and thumb touching forefinger
- Relaxed body and mind to make smooth whole body movements
- Try to find sweet spot of balance as you lean forward and land lightly under your body
- Lift leg and foot from hip flexors and hamstrings rather than pushing down hard with feet
- Feel elbows pulling backwards in time with the opposite foot being lifted
- Shorten stride and increase cadence (aim for 180-190 strides per minute)
- Should feel as if running with a light touch (imagine running on hot coals) with minimal vertical oscillation with no breaking force
Visualising this running style is a good way to start and have this idea in your mind when you start. Concentrate on being centred and working with gravity not against it.
It will take time to get this right – transition slowly to give your body time to adjust. There will be new aches – listen to your body and respond to the aches. Let it settle and then try again at its own pace. Try to stay relaxed and be patient – you are breaking old habits and your body may not want to let go easily. There may be initial setbacks but reduce your mileage and revisit the training drills
Below are some drills to help with the transition
As with all training you will benefit from an initial warm up and stretching session before starting any specific training. This is also the case.
Start with 2 sets of drills (building to 3 when feel able) per session at least 3 times per week taking a day off in between each session.
Stand on both feet in midfoot area on step facing upwards with knee flexed – hold something for balance, raise heels and whole body upwards and straighten leg as you rise. Release tension and let heels sink to dip below step and return to start point. Repeat 10 times both legs for one set. Keep hips and shoulders level during raise and lower. Once confident using both feet try on just one foot – you will feel foot collapsing (pronating) as you lower your heel but let this go and control the pronation.
Good for building dynamic strength in plantar fascia, Achilles tendon and foot muscles as well as some leg muscles.
Either free standing or with your back against a wall, feet shoulder width or slightly wider with your lower legs straight – squat down as far as you are able without starting to lean forward at the hips, you should aim to keep your back parallel with your tibia (shin bone). Hold for 10 secs. Repeat 3-5 times per set. Good for core, hamstrings and quads. Do not bend forward at the hips as we are trying to train our bodies not to do this – we need to be flexible at the ankles and knees and this is where we should feel the movement coming from.
Stand on one leg on a pillow, cushion or air filled bag designed for the purpose. Squat down as far as you are able but no more than knee at 90 degrees. Keep arms in running position and use for balance. Centre / focus weight on mid and forefoot not heel. Keep head level and focus eyes ahead. Slowly rise back up keeping pressure on mid / forefoot area. Repeat 8-10 times per set.
To make this a bit harder place objects in front of you on the floor and touch objects with opposite hand to leg doing squat before rising.
Good for balance and proprioception, lower limb strength and core strength.
Lying on back, lift feet off floor and bend knees to 90 degrees, elbows at 90 degree and hands in front of face. Slowly lift upper body so body and legs make a V – hold 2 secs and slowly lower. Do not lunge upwards with your arms. Repeat 5-10 times per set
Good for building strength in core, upper and lower abs, as well as lower back, groin and hip flexors. You should feel the muscles in your upper abdomen working, not the lower ones.
Lying on back knees bent, feet on floor and arms by sides. Raise head and upper body and extend arms but keeping them low to try and reach your feet. Move slowly to engage small muscles in upper and lower abs. Repeat 5-10 times per set.
Good for core strength but have to move slowly to engage. This exercise will work the lower muscles in your abdomen not the upper ones.
Supine, prone and side variations. Hold each position for 2 secs. Repeat 5-10 per set.
Good for core strength. Balance on feet and elbows / forearms only and keep body as stiff and flat as possible – like a plank!
Stand with feet straight forward and shoulder width apart, hands behind head, elbows horizontal. Slowly bend knees lower your body downwards. As you move downwards roll up onto the balls of your feet and balance at the lowest point and squeezing your gluts, rise back up. Repeat 10 per set.
Good for lower back, legs and balance.
Start from standing and take a large step forward, lower your body until the back knee is 6-8 inches from the ground, hold for a second and then reverse the action to standing. Repeat 5-10 times per leg per set.
Good for core, hamstrings and quads. Land on your forefoot, not your heel.
Complete several times a week. They reinforce all the components of good running form by accentuating them in a repetitive motion that trains the body to become comfortable with that motion. Can be done before or after a run. To start with they may be your only form of training if you are fully embracing natural running transition. It is important to keep intensity low and focus on form. Try to reduce the amount of vertical movement during your gait cycle, any vertical motion is just wasted energy.
Running on the spot
Use the running form described above but stay on the spot. Vary cadence from slow to fast. 15 sec duration and repeat per set.
Using a skipping rope.
Vary tempo and keep on the balls of your feet. Think about lifting your feet rather than pushing from the ground. 15-20 secs each set.
Static Running with High knees
Running on the spot but with knees coming up to 90 degrees. Lower and lift leg do not let leg crash down or use foot to push up hard. Relaxed foot placement. Use arms in the natural running arm swing motion. Try with arms by your side and feel how much harder your feet have to work. Keep head, shoulders and torso relaxed and try to keep vertical oscillation to a minimum. Each set should be 10 elevations of each leg.
Static running with Butt Kicks
Lift your leg with your hamstrings but flick your leg with the quads, gluts and hip flexors backwards whilst lowering your other leg to the ground with a midfoot contact. 10 elevations with each leg.
Static running with Donkey kicks
Push leg out behind you before a fast swing and soft foot placement. 10 elevations with each leg.
Arm pull backs
Start by standing in running position one foot in front of the other and just move arms concentrating on rear portion of the arm swing. Elbows 90 degrees and shoulders / hands / fingers relaxed. 10 swings per arm per foot position.
Single foot skip – fast
Start running at easy pace then take two steps with the same foot during opposite leg swing phase. Take a normal step and then the opposite foot next stride. Cadence should be fast with a skip on the stance foot. Running should feel like a staccato movement. 10 movements each foot.
Single foot skip – slow with high knees
As above but a slow skip with opposite leg high knees.
Slow running forwards with good form. Lean upper body forward from ankles and increase speed, lean upper body backwards and run backwards. Feel how your centre of mass changes with upper body position and adapt speed and direction of run to that of upper body position. 20 sec duration and variable movements forward and backwards.
Adopt good running form and increase speed to 75% of max over 30-40 metres , hold for 10 secs and gradual slow to walk speed, recover walk / slow run 30 secs and repeat speed drill. 5 runs per session.
Walk / run
To start walk / run 30 / 10 secs approx.
Gradually build up run time, still go back to walking to ‘set’ position, to re-focus, during walking phase. Try not to push section too far to start with as you will potentially adopt bad habits. There is a lot to think about regarding all aspects of your body position and you need to focus on all areas at the same time – which is difficult to start with.