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Whether you call it running, jogging, “roadwork”, or by another name, pounding the pavement is something many people do. However, a good portion of those people may not know how to run properly. Running might seem simple, but it’s often unnecessary, and when done with poor form, can cause significant injury. This guide will discuss running, when you should/shouldn’t do it, and how to run properly.
Before looking at how to run properly, you really need to ask yourself why you’re running in the first place. Is roadwork something you even need to do? If you’re competing in a mud run, a 5k, have a military or law enforcement PT test coming up, or just plain enjoy jogging, then that’s perfectly fine. Feel free to run as much as you want or is as needed.
However, if you’re running because you need to lose weight or for improved cardio, there could be better options. Getting your diet on point is going to be your best tool for fat loss, and there are many other activities you could do in lieu of running to burn calories and improve heart health. These could include:
These are often better options than running because they are all much lower impact activities. As a result, they take much less of a toll on the body.
So you’ve decided that jogging is going to be your “go to” activity. However, you’re still not ready to learn how to run properly, yet. This is because you first need to determine if you’re even fit enough to run in the first place.
As was alluded to above, jogging comes with quite a significant amount of impact on the body. After all, they don’t call it “pounding the pavement” for nothing. That combined with the sheer volume of repetition (your average 5k – just over 3 miles – consists of roughly 6200 steps) can lead to quite a bit of overall ballistic shock to your body. The more you weigh and the worse shape you’re in, the worse running is going to be for you.
If you’re more than 25-30lbs overweight and if you’re not already fairly strong, you’re probably better served spending some time getting in better shape first. Get your diet on point, lose some weight, ensure you’re strength training 2-3x/week, and spend a few weeks doing one of the low-impact cardio choices listed above, first.
When deciding on a pair of running shoes, you might think that the more support and cushioning a shoes provides, the better it is. This would, of course, be because of all the repeated shock the feet, ankles, knees, hips, and legs in general endure from taking so many steps. However, you’d be incorrect.
Most people don’t know how to run properly (discussed next). However, because they’ve got a shoe that provides so much comfort, they don’t necessarily know that they’re jogging with poor form because they’re not in immediate pain. This leads to them continuing to run improperly, subjecting their body to prolonged ballistic shock and impact.
At the same time, because it’s the shoe that’s providing support instead of the feet, ankles, arches, and so on, they never have a reason to get stronger. When you combine bad form, sustained, voluminous impact, and weak feet, you’re going to inevitably get injured. This could be from something as minor as a strain or sprain to something as major as a stress fracture.
A much better choice would be one of the “minimalist” running shoes on the market. You don’t have to go with one of the training shoes that simulate being barefoot, as that’s probably going to be too drastic of a change, too quickly. The former will still give you some support and cushioning while you learn how to run properly.
The biggest jogging form mistake people make is thinking they should be stepping in “heel-toe” fashion. This would have them kicking their leg out straight and landing heel first. On the contrary, this method is going to send the most amount of shock throughout the body. When you land on your heel like this, your leg is straight and the impact is sent reverberating up your entire leg, through your hips, and even into your upper body.
Instead, you should pull your knees up with each step, take shorter strides, and aim to land on the balls of your feet. If this feels foreign, and it probably will, picture yourself almost leaning forward a little bit as if you were doing a slow sprint. Doing it this way has a number of benefits, including:
Jogging on the balls of your feet will likely be new and feel awkward at first. However, you can “dummy-proof” your form and develop some appropriate muscle memory by doing hill sprints. If you think about running up a (steep) hill, you have pretty much no choice but to use proper form:
Spend a bunch of time doing this, and you’ll be inherently teaching your body what proper roadwork form is like. All you have to do then is gradually translate that hill sprint technique over to flat(ter) surfaces.
Now that you know how to run properly, are wearing the proper shoes, and can even do hill sprints for the sake of “getting it right without trying”, here are a few other things to keep in mind:
Running properly really isn’t all that complicated – you just probably were never taught how to do it correctly. However, make a few tweaks to your technique, wear the right shoes, and ensure you’re actually ready to run in the first place, and your running will improve in no time. Not only will your performance skyrocket, but you’ll radically reduce the risk of getting hurt, and likely very much enjoy yourself.