Phil Wharton had a great article in the January 2012 Running Times about good running form, how different parts make up the whole, how to test for problems (or for what's right!), and ways to improve:
Good running form plays a large role in remaining injury-free, and remaining injury-free plays a large role in being able to run farther and faster. Let's start by looking at five basic elements of good running form. Then we'll get into some tests to see if your body has the structural integrity to maintain those elements of good form.
THE PARTS OF THE WHOLE
1) POSTURAL ALIGNMENT: Any deviation from optimal alignment will reduce efficiency and lead to musculoskeletal injuries.
2) RANGE OF MOTION: Flexibility is crucial to ensuring complete mobility throughout the running motion. Limited range of motion inhibits the body's ability to complete the full running gait cycle, thereby displacing forces and causing imbalances.
3) JOINT INTEGRITY STRENGTH: Your body must mobilize the forces of landing with 2.5–5 times body weight on every step; multiply that by the number of steps per mile, the number of miles run per year and the number of years you've been running, and you can begin to grasp the impact that your runner's body endures. To assist the body in properly handling these forces, strength is required, particularly at the joint intersections and tendinous attachments, which serve as the body's hinges or fulcrums.
4) MUSCLE ACTIVATION: The nervous and muscular systems work in concert; to move efficiently in forward motion, activation of your posterior muscles (gluteals, hamstrings, lower back) is required. The muscles must first be strong and functioning well before they can adequately "fire." Active-isolated flexibility and strengthening, dynamic range-of-motion exercises and form drills will begin this process of muscle activation and reinforce or "cue" these proper movement patterns in the body.
5) BIOMECHANICS: The integration of correct postural alignment into the running movement requires attention and thought. Some basic concepts are: run tall, making sure that your neck and shoulders are in alignment slightly behind you; land on your forefoot to midfoot with your foot landing directly under your center of gravity; stay light on your feet; stay low to the ground, without shuffling, yet don't bounce or "prance." This optimal positioning will keep your power to the ground and propel you forward in an efficient manner.
To read the entire article and to see all the self-tests, head over to RunningTimes.com or try to find the hardcopy at a library.
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