How to Avoid Bouncing Too Much While Running

Young female jogger running at sunrise
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Instead of nice fluid strides, some runners have an up and down movement. What can you do about it?

If you bounce when you run, your head and body are moving up and down too much, which wastes a lot of energy. More time in the air means you're going slower than you could. Up and down motion while running is called vertical oscillation. It is part of running efficiency. Excess vertical movement isn't propelling you forward. Your leg muscles are lifting you more during the "flight stage" of running than they have to.

Too much up-and-down movement is also tough on your leg and foot muscles — especially your quadriceps at the front of your thighs. The higher you lift yourself off the ground, the greater the shock you have to absorb when landing and the faster your legs will fatigue. You are putting even more stress on your feet, knees, and ankles with every extra inch you are bouncing up and down with each step.

How to Reduce Your Bounce

Okay, now you know why you don't want too much bounce when you run, but how can you bounce less? One short answer is that you will probably naturally get more efficient and have less bounce as you train. Your body will find its natural rhythm and you are likely to see improvements​ in your vertical oscillation as well as speed over the course of weeks and months.

But if you have been running faithfully and you still have a lot of bounce, try these tactics. To minimize bounce and save energy, run lightly, land softly on your feet, and focus on a faster turnover. Try to keep your feet low to the ground with shorter strides. Some experts say a cadence of 90, with your left foot contacting the ground 90 times per minute, is the turnover rate seen in the most efficient runners. Shortening your stride will raise your cadence.

Your arms can help you keep your stride low and short. Keep your arms bent at a 90-degree angle and concentrate on swinging them lower and shorter. By keeping your arm swing lower and quicker, your legs will stay lower to the ground — resulting in a shorter stride. You will also eliminate wasted motion if you were raising your arms with each swing.

Also, make sure you're not running on your toes, which is another habit that can lead to a lot of bouncing. Try to land on the middle (ball) of your foot, and then roll through to the front of your toes. Some experts also note that if you strike on your heel you may also have an inefficient stride and too much bounce.

Practice any changes in your cadence and foot strike for short periods only. They will feel unnatural at first and you don't want to overdo it. As they become more natural you will be able to do them for longer periods of your running workout.

Some fancy running gadgets such as the Garmin HRM-Run heart rate and running dynamics chest strap measures vertical oscillation, cadence and ground contact time. If you really want to work on your bounce, that may be a way to measure it objectively and get feedback as you try to change your running efficiency.

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