When trying to shave time off your runs, don’t forget to fix your form. By Estelle Low
National sprinter Shanti Pereira offers her best form tips for speed running. Photo: Gabriel Moisa / 123rf.com
If you’ve ever wondered why you can’t seem to go any faster during a run, even though your mind is willing, it’s time to examine your form.
When doing sprints or speed runs, every part of your body needs to be engaged, to propel you forward. It’s science, really.
To help you speed up, we ask national sprinter Shanti Pereira for her head-to-toe form tips.
Where you look matters. During a comfortable, moderate-pace run, looking straight ahead is ideal to keep you going. But when you’re picking up speed, shift your gaze slightly downwards, about 45 degrees to the ground, half a metre in front of you. “Keeping your head and body low when you’re accelerating helps to generate power,” Shanti says.
We know, running is not the easiest thing to do. But don’t let that show. Sometimes, we unwittingly frown, lock our jaws, or scrunch up our face. All these little moves create tension in the body and – believe it or not – waste energy. Keep the top part of your body relaxed, from your brows to shoulders. You will feel lighter instantly!
Smart runners know not to let arms hang purposelessly by their sides. Use them to help you pump. During acceleration, bend elbows at 90 degrees and swing your arms faster and harder than in a regular jog to create momentum. Your arms should drive backwards and forward continuously, with your hands going as high as up to your chin.
It’s not just your legs that are working hard as you run. Your core takes the bulk of the load by supporting your body to ensure a good posture. So it makes sense that your core – especially the abs – need to be engaged when you’re running. Squeeze them until they feel tight. When those muscles aren’t activated, your posture takes a hit: You may overarch the back or slouch. Shanti’s favourite ab exercises: windshield wiper and toe touches.
For slow runs, being in an upright position is good. But when it comes to speed, forget about being perpendicular to the ground. Lean forward slightly, as though you’re reaching for something in front of you. This reduces resistance and lets you cut through the air faster.
To go fast, master those steps. Think of your strides as rolling wheels. Make sure your legs are moving in a circular motion. Use your hips to drive your knees forward and higher. As you land, fully extend your legs to complete each stride. Avoid letting them drag behind you.
You may not think about these parts, but stable ankles add power to your runs. Make sure they are flexed during sprints. To strengthen her ankles, Shanti does single-leg squats and stands on the bosu ball. If you don’t have a balancing equipment, hold dumbbells in both hands and lift one leg off ground. Keep body straight and core engaged at all times.