The Shoulders and Upper ArmsKeep them relaxed. Though the shoulders and upper arms primarily provide balance at relatively slow speeds, they can assist the leg muscles more as you run faster and climb hills. Proper movement of the arms and shoulders prevents your trunk from rotating too much from side to side, which wastes energy.
Let your arms swing loosely. Don't hunch forward, and don't pull your shoulders back and thrust your chest out. The place for shoulders is directly above the hips. Unnecessarily tensed muscles always decrease your efficiency.
The Lower ArmsMatch the armswing to your running speed. Vary your arm action with your speed, becoming much more vigorous as you run faster. Keep your elbows close to your body to minimize the tendency for the hands and lower arms to swing across the chest.
At most speeds, your elbows should remain flexed at about 90 degrees through the full range of the armswing. When you sprint at the end of a race, however, let your elbows unlock beyond 90 degrees on the backswing and close to perhaps 30 degrees on the forward swing. This will give you power and fluidity.
The HandsKeep them loose but not limp. Even in the final moments of a race, your wrists should be fairly loose, your fingers should be slightly bent, and your thumbs should not be sticking up like spikes.
The HeadKeep it poised above the shoulders and hips. Except when you are making a desperate dip at a finish-line tape, your head should be poised well above your shoulders.
The head is a very heavy piece of anatomy. If you don't hold it properly, you are likely to develop problems. When your head tilts too far back, it places unnecessary strain on the neck muscles. If it rests too far forward, it can restrict the airways and make breathing difficult.
- Run straight.
When you run in a straight line, your successive foot placements should be parallel to each other (or very nearly so). This will reduce the rotation or twisting of the ankles and knees and will help prevent shortening of your stride due to turning out of the foot.
Because the hip, knee, and ankle joints all must bear the severe stresses and impact of running, you should always try to concentrate on preventing any twisting or sideways motion and keep the feet and legs moving directly forward.
- Increase flexibility.
Improved ankle flexibility has a major payoff in stride length. African runners seem to have the best ankle flexibility, perhaps because they grew up running barefoot as children. Their style shows the knee of the supporting leg well in front of the ankle, which gives the foot a greater range of motion throughout the pushoff phase of running.
The longer the heel is left in contact with the ground while the knee moves forward, the greater the pre-stretch of the calf muscles. This increases both power and stride length, as a pre-stretched muscle generates greater contractile force.
- Use appropriate knee lift.
Sprinting requires high knee lift; marathon running does not. Distance runners should avoid dramatic knee lift, because energy that should be directed to forward movement is wasted on up-and-down motion. Find a comfortable and appropriate degree of knee lift.
- Stretch and strengthen the major muscle groups.
The pelvis accommodates large muscles, which generate the powerful forward thrust of the pushoff foot as well as the thrust of the forward-striding leg. The muscles that stabilize the hip against too much rotation must be especially strong to prevent injury.
Lack of hip-joint mobility limits stride length and often results in a forward lean of the torso. By increasing your hip flexibility, you can run with a more vertical and energy-efficient style.