Useful advice from Ms. Okuno on proper running form and breathing techniques

In the fifth issue, Yukiko Okuno, a promising athlete who is expected to lead the women’s marathon in Japan, gives her advice on proper running form and breathing techniques, sharing her tips on a healthy, energy-efficient run.

Fri, Dec. 7, 2018

This issue talks about running form and breathing techniques. It’s important to keep these two points in mind particularly if we run a long distance, in which we exhaust our physical strength. Here, we ask Ms. Okuno, a top-class long-distance runner in Japan, for her tips on running form and breathing techniques.

ADVICEProfessional advice on running

The importance of running in proper form

If your running form is improper, you are more likely to get injured as an extra strain is placed on a certain part of the body. The correct running form not only prevents injury but also helps increase the effects of running itself. So, learn proper running form rather than stick to your own running style.

Plus, it’s also important to build muscles, balancing both sides of the body to run in correct form. Especially since women have less muscle mass, I’d recommend setting the right workout program such as pushups to build and balance muscles including abdominal and back muscles.

Swing arms as if to hit a small drum in front of you

While you are running, try to keep your chin in, relax your shoulders and hold your head high, which is quite important. You may want to focus on keeping stability in your core but it’s hard for women to keep this posture because women have less muscle mass. When we feel fatigue during a run, we tend to hunch the shoulders up, swinging the arms in front of the body, being eager to move forward. But this motion makes us exhaust our energy further because the arms are going through a bigger range of motion.

In such case, try to relax by rotating and lowering the arms while running. By compactly limiting your arm range, you can swing your arms forward more naturally and prevent your upper body from fatigue too. For instance, I try to swing the arms as if to hit a small drum in front of the body, keeping a good rhythm.

Focus on “exhaling” when breathing

Another important factor is breathing. Effective breathing techniques help you make your run more enjoyable and maintain good running form and pace too. The point here is that “exhaling” plays a key role. When we are out of breath, we tend to focus on “inhaling” but in fact we can’t inhale if we don’t exhale, right?

I normally keep a breathing rhythm by taking two steps to breathe in and another two steps to breathe out. But, of course, there is no rule for breathing patterns. When we are out of breath, we are more likely to take shallow breaths so make sure to take a deep breath in rhythm with your body movement. If you focus on exhaling, you should be able to inhale the right amount of air.

Thanks to Ms. Okuno for her advice on running form and breathing techniques. Here are tips for “tireless running”.


Ultimate theme for runners! Tips on tireless running

So, what is “tireless running”?
Running a long distance with less effort is an ultimate theme for runners no matter how many years you run, what levels of running skills you have, or whether you are a beginner or a veteran with 10-year experience, etc.

The approaches are varied according to running experience, body shapes and structures. Here are the basic tips commonly applied to all runners.

Devise your running form

You can run tirelessly and prevent injury by improving your running form. A point that runners should particularly keep in mind is how to hit the ground.

If you can strike the ground with your feet right under your body, you can move forward without limiting propulsion while minimizing bouncing vertical motions.

The tip is that you first stamp on the spot, recognizing your feet reaching the ground right under your body then head into a run. If you repeat this series of actions, your body may be able to understand the sensation of movement more quickly.

It’s difficult to check your running form by yourself, but here are some useful examples to check and correct your form, which are worth trying.

・Check your form (the posture when reaching the ground) in show-windows.

・Be aware if you are relaxed during a run.

・Check the soles of your running shoes to see your body balance.

So, why don’t you give them a try!

Run at an even pace (level effort)

If you find a run “too hard and long to keep going” after running a certain length of distance, you need ask yourself if you are over-pacing. If you slow down your running pace drastically, you may be able to run much longer than you would expect. Especially if you are a beginner, you might misjudge the best running pace for the distance you are aiming at, or you simply end up over-pacing as you want to keep up with your partners.
If you cannot figure out your right running pace, I would recommend using a heart rate monitor, which is quite helpful.

Improve physical fitness

Being refreshed also plays a big role in running. When we enjoy running, we unintentionally run too long, being unaware of fatigue and your body condition deteriorating.
Running with excessive fatigue means running in bad form and damaging your body, possibly with an injury.

As we introduced in the third issue of Running Aftercare, improving your body condition with stretching and myofascial release, etc. may seem like a detour but is actually a shortcut for tireless running.


Shiseido Running Club

Won the Japan University Student Women's Half Marathon Championships when she was a third-year university student and placed 8th in Osaka Women’s Marathon in the following year. One of the most promising talents in the women’s marathon with an eye on the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Enjoys playing piano; started playing at the age of two and a half and continued until high school. Still plays piano when she visits her parent house. Loves Japanese pop group “Arashi” and “was literally crazy about them particularly when I was at high school”, according to her. She and her family members all follow “Arashi”, being members of the group’s official fan club. Unfortunately, since she became a professional athlete and is busy training and taking part in races, she can rarely find time to go for their live performances, which she finds very disappointing. She has a sweet tooth and loves traditional Japanese confection “warabi-mochi”.