Don't you love those candid race photos of yourself?
Oooh yea.. You know the ones!
Somehow, there's always a photographer taking pictures near the last 3rd of the race.
Never at the beginning where you know,…you look good!
So what happens in-between the start and that final stretch?
How come you're never quite in love with those race photos?
Is it the sweat rolling off you as you slug through those final miles?
Is it your race face as you grit your way to the finish line?
Is it that you look (and feel) like an uncoordinated mess of arms and legs and you're confused looking at pictures thinking,
..."How did no one tell me I run like that??"
It almost feels counterintuitive to spend so much time thinking about it, perfecting it, drilling it.
But it's such a common struggle!
And you've probably had the same questions yourself!
"What is good running form vs bad running form?
How do I fix it?
How do I know I'm doing it right?
How do I tell I have good running form?"
So what do you say I guide you through some of those questions today and we keep coming back to answer the rest in the coming week's blog post?
What would you say to gaining knowledge and tools to perfect your running form so in the coming months and years you can train smarter, run stronger, move better, and just maybe….learn to love those race photos?
Sound good to you?
Then let's dive in.
What is good running form?
I don't know about you, but I like examples. So to explain what "good" running form is, I think it's easiest to start with:
What does good running form it look like?
Take a look at Meb Keflezighi, Usain bolt, or Shalane Flanagan.
What do they all have in common?
They all demonstrate, regardless of pace or distance, this uniform posture and similar form. Notice I didn't say the same form!
Because correct running form can look slightly different for every runner simply because every runner is made with anatomical variations.
But you can say for certain there are common characteristics about each elite's form.
Common characteristics include:
Tall upright core. There's no bending through their sides
Head stacked over the body. They never run like a bobble head doll
Equal arm swing coming across the body. They're arms gently, slightly cross the body.
Feet landing underneath their center of mass. Their feet stay underneath their moving body; this results in a quick turnover and avoids over-striding
Feet do not kick up behind them at odd angles. If you were to observe them from behind, their feet stay in line with their hips; they don’t kick in or out.
All 3 elites emulate these so well that their running looks smoother and effortless
But what does good running form feel like?
Because let's be real...
You're more likely to notice a change in how your run feels before you wake up one day and think "I should take a video of myself running today.."
So what should you keep in mind and be aware of while you're running?
A couple things.
Good running form leaves you feeling:
Tall, strong, powerful, engaged, engaged, and smooth
You can feel your core holding you upright.
You can feel the stability and strength from your obliques (abdominal core muscles important for rotation).
You can feel that you have the capacity to dig deep for more speed and feel tall and strong throughout it instead of your core feeling floppy, or struggling, or feeling yourself bending at your sides.
You can actually feel your arms propelling your forward.
Your arms can become your focal point, your engine. Instead of directly thinking about "fast legs" or "fast feet", you control your speed through your arm swing. How fast are they moving? How strong are they moving? As you bring one arm forward, can you feel your core on the opposite side engage and stay strong?
You feel that your legs aren't dragging on the ground or your toes catching the track or trail.
And remember, it's ok for your legs to still feel tired! But until they reach the point of fatigue and you're pushing their limit, your legs should feel activated and able to lift, stride, plant and carry you forward.
Do you understand why you need good running form?
I know, this seems like an obvious one. But let's tackle it anyway.
Can YOU name a couple reasons why you need good running form?
Not just to look cool…
Have you explored on your own why your body needs you to run with good form?
Got your answer?
Good; let's explore just a couple of the benefits of good running form:
Good running form results in improved efficiency.
You’re going to be able to run faster, for longer. It's like taking care of a car, changing the oil, replacing parts when they wear down. You need to respect the machinery of your body and keep it strong and fueled. Unfortunately, good running form isn't as easy as an oil change. It takes work, time, and consistency.
Good running form also results in decreased risk of injury.
Running well with good form ensures good body mechanics. When you run when good mechanics, you place your body in a state or environment where your body excels and can operate the best. This is where you want to live! You want to run here in this space because your body knows how to handle the load of running best!
So now, the million dollar question. How do you make this good running form happen?
I kind of alluded to it already.
Through foundational elements of mobility, strength, and full body movement.
I know, I know.
You're thinking, "Haven't we covered this enough already?"
Because these are the foundational pillars of running.
Without them, running strong and injury free just doesn't happen.
When you run with one of these pillars missing, that's when you end up seeing me in person in the physical therapy clinic.
Would it help if I told you that if you work on these foundational elements, that you're then training like an elite?
Because I can guarantee you that elite runners have mobility and strength routines.
I'm even willing to wager that their mobility routines with a heavy focus on hips with maybe some exercise thrown in that address spine rotation and feet/ankle mobility.
I can also guarantee that the elite's have strength routines that address core and posterior chain.
What the heck is a posterior chain?
I'm so glad you asked!
And I promise, you already know when it is.
Our posterior chain can be thought of muscles all along your back, your "back-core".
Your posterior chain is composed of the upper back muscles starting in between your shoulder blades and continues down to your glutes, hamstrings, and finishes at your calve muscles.
Keeping these strong is MUST for elites.
The last foundational element they train, whether they know it or not, is some kind of full body movement.
They probably call this cross training.
But it's moving their body in a different way like yoga or swimming where they maybe they double dip and work on mobility and strength at the same time.
Regardless, they're creating an environment of movement for their body to explore moving and living in a different state.
All of that answers the burning question of "What is good running form and how do I get it?"
It comes back to basics. Because they're building blocks for a reason.
They don't need to be fancy.
They just need to work.
And beauty of the basics?
Is that you can do them, too.
You can train like an elite now!
Maybe even better than an elite!
Because now you know the Why and the How.
Do you dare to train differently?
Marie Whitt, PT, DPT //@dr.whitt.fit