Bodywork, May 1997
To make running really work for your legs, you'll want to do it correctly. After all, pounding the pavement with good form can be the difference between loving it and loathing it. Even if you've been at it for years, a few pointers from Jack Daniels, a visiting professor of exercise physiology at Arizona State and running's preeminent physiologist, provide something fresh to consider. Be sure to keep your feet landing parallel to one another, synchronize your breathing with your legs, and most important, run relaxed. "Take a mental inventory from head to toe," Daniels says. Are your jaw muscles clenched? Are your shoulders bunched? Are your hips tight? Are your ankles stiff? They shouldn't be.
As for your pace, Daniels recommends that you count your strides and, regardless of ability, aim for 180 steps per minute. If you come up with 160 or fewer, you're likely bounding too high and thus landing too hard, which isn't any good for your legs. Save the pounding for a pickup hoops game. "I tell people to imagine running across a field of eggs, trying not to break any," Daniels says. "You want shorter, quicker, lighter steps. Focus on your turnover, and as you get stronger your stride length will take care of itself."
Photograph by David Roth