You’re a runner. You relish every opportunity to lace up your shoes, head outside and put in some miles. But do you ever feel that twinge of pain? Or an uncomfortable feeling in your muscles after? It could be from one of these common running mistakes.
If your body feels like it’s taken a beating after a run, you’re probably making one of these common mistakes:
Twisting your torso
When it comes to running form, a lot of runners focus almost entirely on the bottom half of their body, forgetting about the important role their arms and torso play in propelling them forward.
Learning how to swing your arms properly can help you run further, faster and with less pain. Your arms actually determine your stride, so the better use you make of them, the better runner you’re going to be.
Unfortunately, a lot of runners don’t just swing their arms—they rotate their torsos. This gives you the impression that your legs are doing less work, but in reality, it’s adding extra strain to your back and slowing you down.
Fix it: Keep your arms at a 90-degree angle, never let your hands fall below your waist and push your elbows back. This will prevent your upper body from rotating while you’re running.
Hammering your heels
Left, right, left, right—slam, slam, slam, slam. Do you hear a slap every time your feet hit the ground? If you do, you might be hammering your heel. Landing on your heel is hard on your ankles and knees. It can also result in bruised heel tissue, which is excruciatingly painful and takes a long time to heal.
Your heel hammering could be caused by over-striding. It could be that you’re simply pushing yourself too hard. Or it could be that you were taught to land on your heels.
Fix it: Focus on softening your stride. Try to land as lightly as possible on the middle of your feet—between the heels and the balls of your feet. Pretend you’re legs are springs. Your heels, ankles and knees will thank you.
Shrugging your shoulders—and never letting go
Running is hard work. After a few miles (or even minutes, on a bad day), your body starts to get tired—real tired. Your heart thumps and your muscles start to burn. Breathing becomes labored and you start to feel tense.
The natural reaction to this is to pull your shoulders up toward your ears, essentially performing a prolonged shrug. When this happens, every part of your body begins to strain—your neck, upper and lower back, thighs, calves and feet. It’s an unnatural position for your body, especially when it’s in motion. Unnatural positions often lead to aches and pains—while you’re running as well as the next day. It will also mean you won’t be able to run as far or as fast as you might want to.
Fix it: Every mile (or even half-mile), take a few strides and focus on breathing deep, raising your shoulders as high as they’ll go and then dropping them back down. This will help you maintain your flexibility while running. Flexibility is important because it allows you to maintain proper form, even when you’re tired.