The 3 principles of running – what all runners do. But how well can we do these?

Guest Blog: Albert Lu


There are 3 principles of running I’d like to walk you through (or maybe I should say run you through – I know bad joke) to help you become a more efficient and effective runner.

Your pose, or body position, will determine how fast, how long, and/or how painful your run is going to be. The better position you put yourself in from the start of your run, and maintain it throughout your run, the faster, longer, and less painful your run will be at the end.

Putting your body in the right position starts with your spinal position. Everything starts and ends with your backbone. Without that foundation, any movement in any other part of your body will not be as efficient and optimal.

You need to have your spine set in a neutral position:

  1. Squeeze your butt to about 20% of the hardest you can keep it squeezed
  2. Set your ribcage by squeezing your abdominal muscles to about 20% of the hardest you can keep them squeezed
  3. Keep your gaze straight ahead
  4. Keep your shoulders back and chest open

From there you can get into the running pose.

From your profile view, or looking at yourself from the side, you should look like the figure below:

Running pose

One leg is elevated, and the other leg is supporting you, on the ground.
Your knee in your support leg will be bent.
Your foot on the elevated leg will be pulled up to underneath your hip.
Your arms with your elbows bent, at about 90 degrees, are close to you ribcage, and if they were moving, they would be moving straight ahead and back


How accepting are you to letting yourself fall?

Falling happens when your center of mass (at approximately your belly button) passes over your point of support (your feet). That’s when gravity especially acts on you. As Dr. Nicholas Romanov writes in his paper “Runners do not push off the ground but fall forwards via a gravitational torque,” utilizing gravitational torque is the way you will move forward.

Imagine a tree and how it falls while being cut down. It remains in its originally shape. It does not hinge and bend as it is falling. That is how it you should fall if you’re in a good position like it was discussed above.

This angle of fall does not have to be that extreme in order for you to move forward. A few degrees from the vertical are all you need, e.g. 5.5 degrees will give you a 4:08 mile.

running lean


Contrary to how most runners out there see the world and do things, what you should do is pull when you run. Your only job as a runner is to pull your foot of the ground, to be in the air as long as possible, and on the ground as little as possible.

Where are you when you get hurt? On the ground.

Your pulling cadence, like many have explained, should be at the minimum 180 steps per minute, or 90 steps per minute for 1 foot.

By staying at or above 180 steps per minute, you take advantage of both your body’s muscle-tendon elasticity and ground reaction forces to run efficiently.

running pull

Your only job, again, is to pull your foot off the ground from underneath your center of mass, directly up under your hip.

As your fall angle increases, your pulling cadence has to increase.
Running is a skill, and learning to run is like learning how to read, or play an instrument. The foundational principles must be learned and mastered in order to progress to higher and more advanced levels. These foundational principles in running are the pose, the fall, and the pull.

The better you can do these 3 principles of running, the better runner you will be.




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