Vitality London 10,000 runners

10 Technique Tips For Your First 10K

Fine-tuning your form will make for a quicker and altogether more comfortable racing experience...

1. Run tall

Pinch your shoulder blades together and maintain an upright posture throughout – imagine a piece of string with one end tied around your forehead and the other to a balloon that’s floating above your head; each time your posture begins to falter, the balloon pulls you back up. Doing so will encourage your lower body to follow suit and adopt fine form of its own.

Fatigue will encourage you to hunch over, but when your posture goes the rest of your technique goes with it, so resist the urge to slouch. A strong core comes into play here, so aim to incorporate at least one core-strengthening workout into your weekly routine.

2. Stare ahead

A steady gaze directly in front of you keeps your neck and head properly aligned. You should also keep your ears in line with your shoulders, and make sure your chin is as level as possible.

If you can increase your cadence even slightly you will be rewarded with greater efficiency

3. Quicken your feet

You might have heard of the importance of cadence in relation to running, which basically means how many steps you take per minute. High cadence tends to translate to quicker running, because it shortens your stride length which, in turn, makes it easier to maintain forward momentum (if your stride is too long your foot will hit the ground way out in front and act as an unwanted brake). Optimum cadence depends on a number of factors, including weight, height and ability, but if you can increase yours even slightly you will be rewarded with greater efficiency.

To measure your cadence, run at your target 10k pace for 30 seconds and count the number of times your right foot hits the ground. Multiply that number by four to get an estimate of how many times both feet strike the ground in one minute (do the test a few times for accuracy).

4. Land underneath your body

We’ve touched on the adverse effects of landing too far out in front, so it follows that you should aim to touch down as close to your body as possible. That’s because striking closer to your centre of mass encourages that all-important forward momentum. It’s also a lot easier on your joints – notably your knees – because the force of impact is spread out, rather than being isolated and exacerbated as it is when your knee is way out in front.

5. Propel with each step

Once you’ve made the effort to up your cadence and shorten your foot strike, keep that efficient transfer of energy going by ‘toeing off’ with each step. All that means is making a concerted effort to push away from the ground as you lift your foot up to complete the strike. Doing so will provide an extra boost of momentum that translates to tangible results over the 8,000+ steps it takes you to run 10k.

6. Keep elbows in

That word again, momentum, is also affected by the movement of your arms. Swing them in front of your body as you run, and you’re going to knock the rest of your body off balance. Instead, keep your elbows in and imagine a line running down the centre of your body – that line is a no-go zone for your hands.

It's important to remove as much tension from your body as you possibly can

7. Relax your hands

To a complete beginner, it might seem impossible to associate running with relaxation, but it’s important to remove as much tension from your body as you possibly can. Tension leads to tightness, which can affect the free-flowing motion you should be aiming for. As such, take care not to clench your fists – it might help to imagine you’re holding something small between your thumb and forefinger.

8. Lean from your hips

While you should look to maintain good running posture, you shouldn’t go too far the other way and lean back. Instead, try to lean into your run from the hips (not your shoulders!), to get maximum power out of your glutes. This takes a bit of getting used to, so make sure you practise ‘the lean’ in training.

9. Relax your shoulders

Slumped or raised shoulders are a clear indicator of a tiring runner, but try to keep yours as relaxed as possible – even as fatigue sets in. When your shoulders are rounded you constrict your chest and make it more difficult to breathe in a controlled manner. Speaking of which…

10. Control your breathing

If you’ve ever been for a run, you might think you’ve already mastered the breathing element, but if you want to run well there’s more to it than gasping for air. To get as much oxygen into your lungs as possible, practise breathing from your stomach rather than your mouth. This means your stomach should expand and contract, while your chest remains relatively still. It will take some getting used to, but learning to engage your diaphragm will help you to maximise oxygen intake and delay breathlessness.