The “Right” Way to Run: Fact or Fiction?
Once upon a time, I used to joke about how my mom would get things out of a pan while the pan was still hot. Fast forward to more recent times, and I’ve come to realize that I’m the same way. If I bake cupcakes, there’s a good chance someone will hear me say , “Ow! Ow!” as I poke at the baked treats in order to get them out of the pan before said pan cools. Hey! I don’t claim to be the most patient person!
The point? It’s easy to get an idea in your head that there’s a right way and a wrong way to do something, but *is* there a right way to do some of the most prominent things in your life? Experts might say to let the pan cool or to dump the cupcakes out, but my less-than-standard approach works as well. It’s odd, but efficient.
Are other areas in life as flexible as how to get cupcakes out of a pan?
Running is a wonderful place to apply this logic. There are so many tips and strategies in regard to running, but is there a certain method that you could label as “right?” This analysis actually starts off with its own conundrum since “running” can be a vague term. Unlike “yoga” or “kickboxing” where there are sets of stances and maneuvers, “running” is applied to much more than just running-for-exercise purposes. Technically, a child playing in the backyard is running. The vagueness of the term means that putting labels on what’s right and what’s wrong can feel odd. That child, after all, is running, and not really caring about form!
But, in the end, when you’re pursuing the prospect for more long-term goals and extended efforts than backyard play, there are guidelines to running that do merit consideration—not because you have to use them, but because performing your runs in these manners will lessen the possibility of injury or discomfort. Those details are things like keeping your arms at ninety-degree angles, your head slightly up, and your hands mostly closed but relaxed. These strategies can prevent unwanted things like neck injuries, so it might pay in the long-term (and short-term if you want to avoid discomfort after your run) to heed the warnings. If you don’t heed them, don’t be too surprised if you’re achy and uncomfortable from your run!
On the other side of things, there are moments when the standard form of running becomes more of a gray area since, like the aforementioned cupcake pan example, instances could exist where differentiating from what’s been labeled as the correct form doesn’t necessarily hinder your workout. An example would be how your foot should hit the ground as you run. Some might be heel-runners. Some might be toe-runners. Sources suggest though that there’s no across-the-board wrong way between the two. As one source says, “Hit with your heels and you stress your knee, possibly leading to conditions such as patellofemoral stress syndrome. Strike near the ball of your foot and you’ll jolt your ankle and Achilles’ tendon, potentially increasing the risk of such injuries as Achilles’ tendinopathy, plantar fasciitis, and stress fractures of the foot. There is, in other words, no one invariably right and painless way to run.”
In this regard, the perfect form might depend on your individual health, and even a health condition like Adrenal Fatigue could weigh into your running plan since it could encourage you to run less than other runners.
Another gray area could be how long you spend in phases for running since those, too, can vary from person to person with no concrete, nonnegotiable time limit. It’s up to you and should be based on your goals, your needs, and your schedule. In the end, you should consider *you* in the equation. Whatever your needs are, tend to them to find your perfect form.
But there are more aspects to running than just your physical form, and that’s where the idea of a “right” way becomes even less applicable than the how-to-put-your-foot-down argument. Those details involve the where, with what, and with whom factors of a run, and they can vary from person to person—preference to preference.
Do you want to jog around a local park? Go for it! Run with your dog! Get your leash! Run a marathon! Sign up! Details like this are individual—even down to if your health will allow you to finish a marathon or run an obstacle course. With music, without music. With friends, without friends. Tracking or not tracking. Tour or no tour. Virtual or real-life. You truly are free to find your own method and style, and one is not necessarily better than the other. For the most part then, with these concerns, there is no “right” way to run.
Keep in mind though that, as with the previously noted physical form, there are aspects you could choose that would allow you a safer run—like running in numbers for hiking trails as I’ve mentioned on a previous post. You don’t have to, but doing so could keep you from getting stuck in the woods, injured and alone, should something happen. With those areas, what’s “right” becomes more pressing, though it’s still your own personal decision. So rather than “right,” maybe it’s just “safer.”
So, yes, there are methods and strategies that you should apply—a “right” way, if you will—in regard to form and safety, but there’s room to maneuver on other details. The best strategy, I think, is to consider your own needs and goals, and blend those concepts with what’s labeled as the standard form.
Make sure you keep that head up so you don’t hinder your breathing. Keep those strides short enough to maintain a solid form. Use those arms to power your run. But if your health dictates you do something a little differently, do what’s right for you—and, of course, consult your doctor if you’re unsure of the best running strategy for you. What’s “right” for running should be what’s “right” for you.