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Run the Right Way

Improve your form—and performance—with these five tips

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In any sport, optimizing your form will lead to better performance and fewer injuries. That is especially true in running, says Tim Hilden, a trainer and physical therapist at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine in Boulder, Colo. Protect you muscles and joints and become a more efficient runner with his tips:

1.) Lighten Up
Running "hard," or striking your feet on the ground with maximum force, increases the levels of force sent through the body. This can cause new injuries—or worsen existing conditions—creating an uncomfortable running experience. To run more lightly, concentrate on softening the sound your foot makes when it hits the ground.

2.) Watch the Lean
Leaning too far forward increases the load to the front of your knee and limits proper arm movement, which can slow you down. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and lean forward at the ankles until your weight just shifts to the balls of your feet. This is your ideal running angle.

3.) Use Your Arms to Drive Your Legs
Your upper and lower body should always be in sync. Just watch elite sprinters. Move your arms briskly when you run, and your legs will perform at their best. You'll also burn more calories.

4.) Watch Your Cadence
Keep a brisk rhythm. Your muscles will end up being better engaged, and you'll actually use less effort, allowing you to go farther. Focus on making each step quicker without going faster and shortening the amount of time that your foot is in contact with the ground.

5.) Check Your Gait
If you experience any kind of pain, something is wrong. Even if you don't hurt, there may be flaws in your gait that can be corrected. Work on your form, invest in some new shoes, and if that still doesn't help, go see an expert at a running specialty shop who can evaluate you professionally.

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