Ever wish you could run with more ease and smoothness? Whether it’s tight muscles, poor habits or overthinking that leave you feeling stiff and uncomfortable, you too can be gliding effortlessly in three simple steps. Try these a few times on your easy runs, and soon you’ll be doing them naturally. Your friends may start calling you Kipchoge.
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Relax your shoulders and arms
Keep your shoulders relaxed and down: tension in your shoulders can lead to neck and upper back discomfort. Keep your hands in a very loose fist (imagine you are holding a delicate potato chip in each hand) and let your arms swing easily and naturally. Once in a while, shake out your arms and shoulders during your run, releasing any tension that has built up and giving yourself a quick reset.
Pay attention to your breath
Notice the rhythm of your breath, and try to keep a steady, relaxed pattern. Taking deep breaths through your nose can help calm your entire body and reduce tension. Notice if you’re breathing erratically or shallowly and try practicing diaphragmatic breathing (or “belly breathing”) to release tension that may be accumulating. Start by inhaling deeply through your nose, expanding your diaphragm, and exhaling fully through your mouth or nose. If this is challenging, try practicing for a few moments before or after your run.
Find your stride
While we all have a natural running stride that we gravitate toward, it’s easy to fall into poor habits when fatigue sets in. Aim for a comfortable and efficient stride length, avoiding overstriding or taking excessively long steps–this can lead to tension and soreness in your legs and lower back. Pay attention to your foot strike, and while this subject seems to be forever in debate, a general consensus is that staying light on your feet with a quick turnover is helpful for most of us. Avoid leaning too far forward or backward.
Relaxed running doesn’t mean slouching or flailing about, rather, it means finding a balance–maintaining proper running mechanics and feeling like you are running with ease. Some days this is more challenging than others. If you check-in with your running form regularly, reminding yourself of this quick three-step shakeout, you’ll soon be doing this by habit and zooming fluidly and lightly through your runs.