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The Original Live Journal Runners Club - Running Form
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Running Form
Here's something I wrote on running form, both as a response to an earlier question asked and hopefully to help anyone else looking for some tips on this important subject:




Why should you care about running form? Well, aside from reducing the potential to injure yourself, running is a series of thousands of steps, and with each step you take you expend a corresponding amount of energy. Over those thousands of steps you can overtake and run faster than a runner of equal ability, with less effort, if you pay more attention to form. This is also known as running economy. It's easy to work on, and is very rewarding to master. You will look and feel like an experienced runner, and in essence will become one much more quickly. You will also enjoy running a great deal more. We've all seen the average weightlifting-type that gets on the treadmill at the gym and pounds away at too fast a speed for five or ten minutes, making an awful racket, then gets off, huffing and puffing as he believes he has finished his "cardio" for the day. This picture I am describing is not intended to make fun of someone who is rightfully just trying to do what seems best. Many good runners don't have a clue of how to follow a proper weightlifting regime.

Running "form", or style, is in many ways a highly individual thing. There are certain components of running form that cannot necessarily be called "wrong", and are based more on opinion, and perhaps personal experience as well. A good example of the grey area of running form in which many esteemed coaches and runners alike differ in opinion is the positioning of the runner's arms - more specifically, the degree of arm bend and therefore, the height at which the hands end up. I am in the camp that believes in a higher, more compact arm position, particularly for long distance runners. Athletes that specialize in middle-distance events tend to use their arms more, and have them in a lower position - think of a sprinter, and you'll understand this difference. However, for most runners who will read this - those who enter 5km races and up to the marathon - my experience tells me that it seems to take a little less energy (and is maybe slightly more aerodynamic) to hold the arms at an angle that is a little tighter than 90 degrees at the top of the arm swing, with the hands near the chest, rather than a lower hand position that finds them along the sides of your shorts. I also believe that it takes a little less energy to hold the weight of the arms when they are higher up. Hold a weighted bar horizontally, and then slowly bring it up towards a more vertical position. Notice that there's less energy needed to hold the bar as you get closer and closer to vertical. In fact, if the arms weren't instrumental with balance and driving back to help maintain forward momentum, we would all have them completely bent to vertical and stuck to the front of our shoulders. The degree in which the arms are bent should be at their tightest when the hand is at its highest point, just before the arm drives back. As the arm moves back and the front of the arm lowers, the angle should relax a little, but no greater than 90 degrees.

A helpful way of looking at proper hand and arm position is to imagine that there are little elastic bands attached to your thumbs, with the other end attached to your corresponding nipple. Your hands should not move towards or away (on the horizontal plane) from the nipple it is "connected to" much more than a couple inches. Runners should certainly have a "driving backwards" motion with their arms, but it needs to be smooth, not wasteful. This is important - many runners have a "pulling" motion, in which they lunge each arm forward, and then back, as if they are grabbing some imaginary object that is helping propel them forward. This incorrect motion is often echoed in the legs - more on that later.

Once you have your hands and arms in the correct position, remember that there is only a driving back motion - the arm starts at the neutral point and then goes backwards, fairly sharply if the runner is moving quickly. There is no real forward segment - only a return to the start position. Think of it as driving the arm back, and then a return to neutral. As you perform the drive back, each elbow should move upwards as it moves back, not outwards (to the left and right). Remember, we are trying to be as aerodynamic as possible, and if your elbows are splayed out, this creates more wind resistance, not to mention forcing the shoulders to unnaturally move inward towards the neck over and over again, as well as likely forcing each hand to cross over to the other side of your chest - another common error in running form. The arm swing is a smooth swiveling motion. Remember the rubber bands? If you are moving your arms correctly, there should be very little horizontal or forward difference in the length between your nipple and thumb throughout the entire arm swing. If you move your arms too far forward, this length increases dramatically. If you splay the elbows out on the drive back, your thumbs will gravitate towards your outer rib cage. Visualize a smooth, parallel swivel that starts with your hands right in front of your chest, and not going forwards much at all, but simply swiveling your elbows backwards and up in a parallel motion, then returning to the start, remembering once again to not lunge forward. Don't push your chest out while doing this. All breathing in running comes from the belly area, or diaphragm, like a trained singer. If you are female and have taken Lamaze breathing classes in preparation for giving birth, think back to what you were taught in these classes, as proper breathing techniques while running are similar. The upper chest should not visibly be seen to expand! It all happens below this area. Breathing from the chest only allows more waste air to remain in the lungs, as they don't discharge this used air properly. Practice proper "belly" breathing, and you will run faster with less effort, since you will be getting more fuel (oxygen) in with each breath taken.

Your hands will, and should, move up and down, or vertically, as the arm swing occurs. At the top of the arm swing, the hand should be no higher than the shoulder. At the moment in which the elbow is behind the runner at its highest point, the corresponding hand should be no lower than the bottom of the rib cage. This entire range of vertical hand motion is not much, and should not be exaggerated. Remember to relax the hands, keeping them in a very loose shape that is halfway to becoming a fist. Your thumbs should be relaxed, but pointing up. This helps maintain the correct parallel nature of the arm swing. The hands should be loose and flopping up and down a little with the momentum of the arm swing. Relax your shoulders, and periodically drop your arms to shake out any tension that has built up. This shake-out is best done on downhill sections in a race, if possible, but can be done at any time. Remember, it is almost impossible for the arms to hold tension if the shoulders are relaxed. Arm tension starts in the shoulders, and works its way down. It is very wasteful on total energy output.

Once you have it all down, you'll feel efficient, and won't be wasting energy with unnecessary hand / arm motions in front of you, as so many runners do. Remember, everything that involves moving yourself forward in running starts at the spot directly under your centre of gravity, and behind you. There is nothing in front of your body that will help you go faster, or in fact move forward at all. This is very important.

Now, let's move on to the hips. Another very common, incorrect running posture that I see everywhere, and one that drives many coaches crazy, is the tendency to position the hips as if the runner is perhaps thinking about sitting down. Another way of visualizing this incorrect form is to visualize the body as something that can be "folded" in half at the hips. Think of being in a standing position and then reaching down to touch your toes. Now, in the running form example, think of perpetually being in the initial stage of performing one of these toe-touches. The rear end is sticking out a little, and the pelvis is slightly bent. This is not very good running form. You may have read elsewhere that it's a good idea to imagine that there is a string attached to your navel, pulling you along. This is the correct idea, but I like to expand on that idea a little and think of it as two strings attached to each hip, pulling you along. As you read this, stand straight and tall and thrust your pelvis outward, slowly, like a stretching motion. It is indeed a stretch, because you should feel your hip flexors being pulled tight. These muscles are your ally in running. They are the key to maintaining a tall body, completely un-bent pelvis, and ensuring you centre of gravity remains in the proper place. Further proof of this being correct running form is that you may notice as you tire, it's harder to keep the pelvis in its forward, frontal style - the poor runner will inevitably slip into the bent crouch, pushing their rear out and losing momentum through a weakened centre of gravity. What happens next is that this runner slows down. He will also have more difficulty breathing correctly, since it's the now crunched-up lower belly (diaphragm) that needs the space to move in and out, not the chest - remember the earlier part about proper breathing. Your lower belly needs space to do this.

Your legs are obviously the most important part of the body in running. They do the work, specifically the hamstrings (back of the thigh) and calves, although the quadriceps (front of the thigh) is called into action whenever a runner needs to run up a hill. Still, unless you are perpetually going up, it's the hamstrings in particular that do the lion's share. New runners generally develop their hamstring muscles at a faster rate than their quads, which unfortunately can create a muscle imbalance, leading to improper tracking of the tendons that surround the kneecap. Patellar Tendonitis and Iliotibial Band Syndrome are common for those newcomers, but can be avoided or minimized simply by following a set schedule, and not ramping up the mileage too quickly. Proper running shoes that are suited to the individual runner are a must, as well.

As I stated earlier, there is nothing in front of you that is going to help you go faster. This is especially true with the legs. Many runners overstride, and it's almost always caused by heel striking. Your feet should be landing directly under your centre of gravity. This is your hips. In fact, if you aren't looking directly down, you should not be able to see your feet at all. The degree of knee lift is proportional to two things - how fast you are going, and degree of incline. If you are not running up a hill, and you are moving along at a comfortable pace, there should not be much knee lift at all. Lifting the knee is lifting a weight. Don't do it any more than is needed.

A difficult part of the leg movement cycle to master is when the foot should be hitting the ground in relation to where it is in its cycle of motion. As I mentioned, many runners will overstride, making hard contact before the weight of the body can catch up, and this results in a perpetual braking action. You do not want to be landing on your heels. The heels should make contact with the ground, but only a split second after the forefoot. The forefoot (or ball of foot) should take the weight of your initial strike. If you overstride and heel strike, the strike of the foot itself momentarily stops forward motion, which the runner must fight through over and over again! No one wants this. Also, heel strikers are landing ahead of their center of gravity.

Although it's hard to master, try to already have the foot motion just barely (but already) on its way back just before it strikes. Don't strike at the end of your forward motion, then move back. I would argue that this one thing is perhaps the single biggest difference between an average runner and a good one. This is very subtle, but an extreme way of looking at it is imagining you are log-rolling. If you were trying to keep your balance while running in place on a log that is rolling in the water, you would certainly follow this principle! Another principle you would follow while trying not to fall in the water is a short stride rate, since there's a small area under you in which it is possible to place the foot. Remarkably, the log-rolling analogy applies here as well, since the place where the log would be is exactly under your centre of gravity.

I will expand upon this, as it's very important: Think of riding a bike - your foot is already on the way backwards when it is at the bottom of its cycle, which is the same moment as the footstrike in running. Work on this all the time, and you will get much faster, and reduce impact dramatically.

There should be three steps taken per second. Interestingly, this applies at fairly slow jogging speed, up to fairly fast running (but not sprinting). If you watch elite runners as they tire in the final stages of a race, they increase stride rate, not length. New runners will do the exact opposite, lunging each leg forward. As I pointed out earlier, this does nothing but create a braking action each time contact is made, and disrupts the foot strike under the centre of gravity. Employ little, short and quick steps when you are at the end of your next race.

So, once a runner has mastered the proper cadence of 180 individual steps or 90 pairs of steps a minute, and has very good form, what else can be done (aside from more training) to improve? Now the runner is ready to go back to what he/she avoided earlier, which is stride length.

Since stride rate generally should stay the same through a wide range of running speeds, at that point the only way to speed up is to increase stride length, which must be done without violating the rules of proper form, which dictate that everything happens behind the runner, and that overstriding is inefficient. When you see an elite Kenyan gracefully running sub-5 minute miles, he appears to be almost jogging. This is because his stride length is tremendous compared to an average runner, yet he does this while keeping the same form as if he were running much slower. He will not overstride, as he knows this is futile. Again, remember, everything happens behind the runner. All the power is not in lunging forward, but in pushing, or toeing off. As an efficient runner speeds up, his push off becomes more powerful, and another thing happens - the degree of knee bend when the leg is behind him increases, in many cases, dramatically. The secret here is similar to the degree of arm bend, and the weightlifting analogy that went with it. The lower leg is a weighted lever, and a runner lifts this lever thousands of times in a run. The higher the degree of bend after the push off when the leg is behind the runner, the less that the weight of the lower leg is stressing him over time. The higher bend also assists in continuing the explosive power of the push off.

Comments
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anarcha From: anarcha Date: October 19th, 2007 03:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
_extremely_ helpful. Thanks.

(and I like your point about not lifting the knees any more than necessary. I get teased from time to time because I have very little knee action (many of my race photos look like I'm speed walking -- example below).





Now I have some ammunition to back up what I thought -- that my low knees were efficient and effective (though I still have lots of other form issues to work on)
travelogger From: travelogger Date: October 19th, 2007 03:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Lower knee lift is especially important for longer distance runners. It's the quads that usually start to fail at the end of long races, and often this is due to the fatigue caused by lifting the legs a little too high thousands of times. Alberto Salazar, the great marathoner of the early 80's was an extreme example of low knee-lift efficiency. His running form was known as the "Salazar Shuffle". :)
ebullientjenn From: ebullientjenn Date: October 19th, 2007 03:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for sharing this!
travelogger From: travelogger Date: October 19th, 2007 03:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
No problem - I really hope it helps!
coanteen From: coanteen Date: October 19th, 2007 03:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Very helpful, thank you! I'm a fairly new runner (and newbie to this comm), and I both overstride and bend my pelvis. I'll be working on the proper form.
travelogger From: travelogger Date: October 19th, 2007 04:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
Excellent to hear - and don't feel any shame about either error, as they are so common that I would almost refer to them as standard form for new runners, and a lot of "intermediate" ones as well. By working on them immediately, you will greatly decrease your chance of injury and running will become way more enjoyable. :)
chendog From: chendog Date: October 19th, 2007 04:29 pm (UTC) (Link)

Form

Thanks. Great post. I have noticed that the more tired I get the more my form degrades ie long stride, bending at waist etc It's nice to have the principles laid out in black and white. Easier to remember and use.
travelogger From: travelogger Date: October 19th, 2007 06:44 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Form

Thanks for your feedback - I'm glad you found it helpful!
(Deleted comment)
travelogger From: travelogger Date: October 19th, 2007 06:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Good point! It's much harder to un-learn bad running habits that have become ingrained.
porktruck From: porktruck Date: October 19th, 2007 05:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
And stay on the FRONT of your feet! That's the thing I always stress. They're good about teaching this in football, baseball, etc., but a lot of runners miss out on those drills. I've had high school kids go from 20 minutes down to 18 with nothing more than getting them to stay off their heels. There's a reason those spikes are in the FRONT.
travelogger From: travelogger Date: October 19th, 2007 06:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes , this is true - unfortunately a lot a running shoes these days have such a high heel on them that it becomes difficult to not heel strike. Still, as long as you are not overstriding and keeping the foot landing under the centre of gravity, it's fairly easy to overcome.
t__m__i From: t__m__i Date: October 19th, 2007 05:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
When you see an elite Kenyan gracefully running sub-5 minute miles, he appears to be almost jogging.
Yet when you see Paula Radcliffe running at exactly the same speed, she looks like a demented chicken. (Her husband's words, not mine - but, you know, he's right). Mystery.
travelogger From: travelogger Date: October 19th, 2007 06:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, there's a few odd runners out there that nevertheless are fantastic, but they are surely not the norm. Emil Zatopek was a prime example of fairly crappy form in a phenomenal runner.
feeble_knees From: feeble_knees Date: October 19th, 2007 06:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
VERY helpful, thank you! So much to think about, all at the same time! But then - what else are you gonna do on a long run, but think?? I know I tend to slouch, and I can also work on some of the other issues as well.

Cool, thanks - will pass this off to my "coach", too! :)
travelogger From: travelogger Date: October 19th, 2007 07:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! I would be interested in your coach's feedback.
pushingfurther From: pushingfurther Date: October 19th, 2007 07:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for the post!!!

I've been looking on-line for advice on form, but this is it, right here.
You saved me from a headache and having to distinguish good advice from "chicken running" advice.

Here's to more improvement!
travelogger From: travelogger Date: October 19th, 2007 07:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm really pleased that you find this helpful! :)
quellybelly From: quellybelly Date: October 19th, 2007 09:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Glad that you posted this. As I'm getting upwards in milage, I've started to notice weird parts of my body hurting, and I've been guessing my form is the culprit. Though... I was never in track and never learned proper form. Plus other sites online that talk about proper form each contradict each other.

I like the running-on-a-log analogy and will be trying it out next run.
travelogger From: travelogger Date: October 19th, 2007 10:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have noticed that many people I have discussed the log-rolling analogy with find it a good visualization - it helps prevent a few wrong things all in one go. Thanks for your comment, and I'm really happy you found my post useful. :)
klm185 From: klm185 Date: October 19th, 2007 10:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
YOU are very helpful. :)

I kept this post in mind today on my 5-miler, and made sure to keep my feet low to the ground. I felt like I was gliding, and was sad when I ended up back at my apartment. I didn't feel like I was going to collapse at the end and, an hour later, I feel great! So thanks for the great post. You should post more running tips.
travelogger From: travelogger Date: October 19th, 2007 10:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Awesome! I know that gliding feeling. It's a great one, for sure. I will post more stuff like this periodically, for sure. It makes me feel wonderful to know that other runners find it helpful. :)
lizzi_barth From: lizzi_barth Date: October 20th, 2007 02:15 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks so much for this... I'm pretty new to running and have actually been meaning to make a post asking a lot of this stuff. I always feel like I hold my arms weirdly when I run... it just feels awkward and I always end up with sore and stiff shoulders/neck, so I'm definitely looking forward to having a proper read through what you've written and hopefully finding some solutions!

Thanks again! :)

ps. the cat in your icon is SO trying (and succeeding!) to seduce me with that come-hither smirk.
travelogger From: travelogger Date: October 20th, 2007 12:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks a lot for your comments, and I hope my post helps you enjoy running more!

ps. My cat does that to me, too. :)

tri_blog From: tri_blog Date: October 20th, 2007 04:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! Excellent post. Are you a coach? I'm new to hard core running, and I've been feeling ITBS pain.

Have you seen the book ChiRunning: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running, by ultramarathoner Danny Dreyer? I just started reading it. Looks excellent. I'm curious what you think. Will post a summary of its points on my blog.
travelogger From: travelogger Date: October 20th, 2007 12:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
No problem - I'm glad you liked it. I am not a coach, but I have been coached at length by a former Olympic runner, and have spent years heavily researching the subject of running in preparation for a book I am writing on the subject. This post is actually an excerpt from the manuscript - I just don't point out that fact too often for fear of being misconstrued as having the ulterior motive of just looking for an outlet to sell it.

I am very familiar with Dreyer and his ChiRunning approach. He and I share some beliefs, notably the use of very low-profile racing flats for everyday training.

p.s. i hope your knee pain is just transient in nature! Injuries are never fun.
crystalrowan From: crystalrowan Date: October 20th, 2007 03:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm keeping this post because I've been running for almost a year now and wondering why, though my times and endurance have improved somewhat, I haven't seen greater endurance improvement.

I'm definitely making a lot of the common mistakes you detailed above. Especially the knee-lift and the overstride! Which explains why quads feel more fatigued than my hamstrings at the end of longer runs.

Very, VERY helpful information! I'm going to start really working on my form. And I do want to know when your book is published because I would love to read it.
travelogger From: travelogger Date: October 20th, 2007 03:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks a lot for the kind words! I am glad you find this post helpful. :)
redrane From: redrane Date: October 25th, 2007 01:03 am (UTC) (Link)
Excellent tips and analogies! Im definetely going to try and think of all those little things! Since I am so new to this though I was thinking of trying to find a running clinic that might allow someone else to look at my form, I know from years of teaching dance that what you think is right or what feels right isnt necessarily so.
Thanks again for all your continual advice and support to everyone!
travelogger From: travelogger Date: October 25th, 2007 01:07 am (UTC) (Link)
No problem at all - it's my pleasure. It's a great feeling when passing on information I have gathered over time is successful in helping others. :)
michverbessern From: michverbessern Date: August 14th, 2008 09:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
This was really helpful, especially the bit about pretending a string is pulling me at the navel... I definitely lean forward a lot when I'm tired, and tend to slouch sometimes.

I also remember my high school PE teacher telling us to "pump" our arms forward when we run so we didn't waste energy... but I always thought she was a little off... why would I do more work to save energy?
travelogger From: travelogger Date: August 14th, 2008 09:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
That is a little weird, for sure - but it's a good idea to pump your arms when running uphill.
pixeled From: pixeled Date: September 23rd, 2008 02:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
This was helpful. Thank you for directing me toward it. Changing the way I run still seems like a daunting task, but the next time I go out for a run I will see if I can do more of a midfoot strike rather than landing flat-foot and take it from there. Hopefully I can improve my form by the time I start training for a half marathon, or while I do it.

The hardest thing for me while I run is keeping my upper body up. I start out fine, but as the miles add up and I start to get tired, I find it nearly impossible not to slouch. I am constantly correcting my posture while I run and it is annoying. I figure my issues stem from the fact that I still have 70 pounds to lose and that I have a lot of belly fat. I do a lot of exercises designed to improve core strength, but I guess there's only so much I can do until I've lost the rest of this weight. I do notice that as I lose more and more weight it becomes easier to breathe while running and it also becomes easier to move, but I guess it will be a while before I can properly hold myself up. :/

I have gotten pain that sounds exactly like patellar tendinitis a few times over the course of my training, so I'm hoping that running with better form will lessen the stress on my legs.

Do you have any advice for pain in the trapezius muscle while running? It's the only thing that persistently bothers me while running, even when I minimize arm motion and stretch my arms and back beforehand.
travelogger From: travelogger Date: September 23rd, 2008 04:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Shoulder tension is really common in runners. All I can tell you is to remember to shake your arms out every once in a while - you will even see elites doing this. Shake the arms out and remember to relax your shoulders and neck. Avoid the tendency to let your head start drifting backwards as you tire. Keep your eyes on a spot on the ground about ten steps in front of you.
mellyjc From: mellyjc Date: January 31st, 2009 06:26 am (UTC) (Link)
Can you help me out? I think I'm missing something in the last two paragraphs, as they sound contradictory:

If you watch elite runners as they tire in the final stages of a race, they increase stride rate, not length.

the only way to speed up correctly is to increase stride length.

I totally get the part about not lunging, but otherwise the latter seems to be more in line with the 3 steps per second stride rate initially mentioned.

Maybe I'm braindead from thesis but I'm confused at the seeming contradiction there.

I had wondered about the belly breathing part of it. I'm not sure if it contradicts what I've otherwise been taught- TNT spoke about the importance of strengthening the core (of course) and suggested holding core taut while running. Clearly the energy is put to better use if held/directed rather than diffused in jiggling the jello, but it would seem there's a balance between holding strong core and allowing belly breathing, yes? I find that when I try and focus on my core like that I breathe more into my chest, so if there's any tips on that it would be helpful.

Thank you for awesome tips!
travelogger From: travelogger Date: January 31st, 2009 03:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
No, you are correct - it does appear contradictory. Thanks for pointing that out. I just changed the wording of the section to make it more clear. This is what the section says now:

So, once a runner has mastered the proper cadence of 180 individual steps or 90 pairs of steps a minute, and has very good form, what else can be done (aside from more training) to improve? Now the runner is ready to go back to what he/she avoided earlier, which is stride length.

Since stride rate generally should stay the same through a wide range of running speeds, at that point the only way to speed up is to increase stride length, which must be done without violating the rules of proper form, which dictate that everything happens behind the runner, and that overstriding is inefficient. When you see an elite Kenyan gracefully running sub-5 minute miles, he appears to be almost jogging. This is because his stride length is tremendous compared to an average runner, yet he does this while keeping the same form as if he were running much slower. He will not overstride, as he knows this is futile.


As for the belly breathing part, I think it would be wasteful to flex the abdominal wall when running, and that would also interfere with allowing the runner to breathe as freely as possible.
quellybelly From: quellybelly Date: March 1st, 2009 08:03 pm (UTC) (Link)

Question

The past few weeks I've been working on my running form, loosely using this as a guide, I have a question abou the 3 steps per second.

I've done this on my past few runs to test it out. It has helped me strike correctly and my body feels less worn out at the end, though my pace has gone up dramatically, even when trying to go slowly. There's only so slow I can go if I'm trying to get 3 steps per second, which leads me to my question: am I going too fast? My pace for my long run has gone up 45 seconds-1 minute per mile, and my breathing seems a little harder than it should be for a long run.
travelogger From: travelogger Date: March 1st, 2009 08:41 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Question

Your pace is going up because you are running more efficiently (which is excellent), but you've noticed the breathing is a little heavier than it should be, so you still need to slow it down. I know it's hard! :) Moving to almost a minute faster per mile than your old pace is really dramatic of a change.

The best way to slow down and still maintain the 3 steps per second rule is to reduce to "push-off" power. So in other words, you need to reduce your stride length on easy runs while maintaining the stride rate.
tfcjenn From: tfcjenn Date: June 19th, 2009 06:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Your posts are so helpful and much appreciated - thank you!!

I paid attention to how I was running this afternoon after spending a lot of time going through the memories last night and reading about running form.

I am definitely a heel striker, so I spent some time on the treadmill trying to change the way my foot strikes. It was difficult at first, and I had to imagine myself running up on my toes just to get to the point where I was striking with the forefoot, and thought often about the log-running analogy.

By the time I got finished running two miles, my calves were getting pretty sore.

I'm not sure how to move forward with training from here. I am trying to add miles for a half in October, and am currently running about 15 miles a week (~4 Tues, ~5 Thurs, ~6 Sun), trying to add one or two miles each week.

I feel like it's important to get my form and strike in check before I concentrate on adding miles, but I don't want to lose any mileage either.

I also feel like I have to really concentrate on running on a log or up on my toes or I slip back into heel striking.

Should I go out on Sunday and try to run six miles without heel striking or should I try to run shorter distances more often through the week?

Is there any good advice to transition from heel-striking to proper running form?
travelogger From: travelogger Date: June 20th, 2009 02:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
It takes a little while to make the transition. Your calves will likely be sore after the run for a week or two because of the difference in the workload. Also, in the beginning you will probably find that you can only manage the first part of each run with proper footstrike, and as you get tired you will fall back in to heel striking. However, keep at it, and it will all be worth it in the end!
weezercrazed From: weezercrazed Date: August 5th, 2009 10:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Granted, I had to re-read this a few times to absorb the information, but ou provide great tips, especially where to keep your arms and legs. The log rolling image was a huge help for me, as I was a heel striker and also over striding. Imagery like that actually helps me focus as a I run. Before, I used an image of a runner from a TV show, not realizing they had bad form :-P

Thank you for posting this!
travelogger From: travelogger Date: August 6th, 2009 12:04 am (UTC) (Link)
No problem, I am glad I was able to help! :)
From: hannahruns Date: October 7th, 2009 04:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is great :) I'm coming back from a stress fracture, so what better time to focus on really improving my (admittedly shoddy) form than when I'm going slowly anyway?
I am writing these tips down and keeping them in front of me on the treadmill on my 5-miler today.
bozotkutya From: bozotkutya Date: October 22nd, 2009 08:17 am (UTC) (Link)
Would you mind if I translated this and posted it on my Hungarian blog? With due credits given, of course.
travelogger From: travelogger Date: October 22nd, 2009 11:12 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't mind at all! :)
bozotkutya From: bozotkutya Date: December 27th, 2009 11:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Here I am again and asking questions :) Hope you aren't sick of me yet...

So, I got into a (friendly) argument with one of my runner friends about proper form, especially the correct position and motion of the arms during running. He argued that a stronger arm swing with more momentum would help with maintaining pace and even help you go faster. I pointed out this would only be the case at shorter distances, but talking about marathons and ultras putting more energy into arm movement than necessary would be uneconomical. He brought up elite runners like Kouros to back up his opinion, but I think we shouldn't compare such a fast, genetically gifted, professional athlete with more casual runners. They(pros) are simply so very much faster that while it may seem that they put more effort into their arm movement,in fact their arm swing perfectly corresponds to their pace and rhythm. Friend does not agree and wanted to look up some reliable data or studies but haven't found anything worth mentioning.

What do you think?
From: albeitslowly Date: December 28th, 2009 05:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you. I'm new to the comm and going through the memories. As a newbie, I'm a little intimidated and afraid to offer suggestions or ask specific form questions (Have you ever watched the gymrats comm? Those guys will eat you alive if you use one word wrong.) After all, what do I know, anyway?

But you've hit on a lot of things I've discovered for myself over the last month or so since I've added running to my workout regimen. I think if you go through my journal, somewhere there are posts in which I say I love every kind of working out except running, because as soon as I start running, all I can think about is when can I stop running. This has always been the case for me. I was fast in school, but I never ran anything over 400 meters, and none of that very well. My little sister was pretty much elite and won conference at the mile and two mile her freshman year. I never could figure out how we both lived the same lifestyle and yet she was so fit, and I was a huffing, puffing windbag. LOL.

Anyway, so running has always been my bugaboo. A little over a month ago, I decided enough avoiding it. I'd conquered every other fitness goal I set for myself. Time to conquer this one. Besides, it's finally a decent running temp here in Texas.

Within two weeks I was popping ibuprofen like crazy because my right knee hurt and my left foot throbbed all the time, and I wasn't even running a whole mile without stopping. I did some reading, found some books on technique, and now I feel like running is not a huge obstacle anymore. Pretty much discovered all the principles you've outlined here and I've been implementing them with a great amount of success. No pain, and my distances are growing quicker than I ever expected.

I wanted to add to the visual aid you used of the two ropes at the hips pulling you forward. I found that when I was trying to maintain the correct upright pelvic alignment, it really helped me to imagine I was playing Peter Pan on stage and getting ready to be lifted into flight by my belt. That pre-takeoff stance when you're stretched upward and just touching the ground with your toes really worked as a visual for me, and it made running really fun, too.

I'm a little confused on how to increase stride length without overstriding. I'm not to the point yet where I need to be worrying about speed, but I have naturally short legs, so I'm afraid once I do start adding speed, I'll have a real handicap, there. Also, I think the Gordon Pirie book advocated a four to six beat per second stride rate. I gotta admit that I tried that and wore myself to a frazzle. LOL. I like the three beats per second much better, and that's where I am right now.

Thank you for making me feel like less of a newbie. I don't claim to have all the answers, but I know what works for me, and it's good to know someone has taken the time to determine if that works for other people as well.
68 miles | run a mile
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