Find your best running form
Running is a natural activity for humans. We’ve been doing it for, oh, 200,000 years or so. But just because it’s natural doesn’t mean that you’re born knowing how to do it. It’s a learned skill; some running forms are better than others. We know that, and that’s why pictures like this are funny:
Find your running form
So, how do you learn the best running form for you?
Some people say your body will find its best running form on its own as you run more miles. I personally believe this theory. But, I also believe that most Americans never get to that point. Especially if you start running as an adult, it’s rare to run enough miles to find your most efficient form. Also, you may be starting with muscle weakness and tightness from years of sitting at a desk or being inactive. That means your body will find a way to deal with those limitations — but it’s not going to be your best running form.
That’s why several years ago I began offering running form analysis. The goal of these sessions is simple: identify weaknesses and inefficiencies that may be limiting performance or causing injury, and provide exercises and drills to help address them. It’s basically a way to “short-cut” the process of finding a more efficient running form through teaching your body a better way to run.
You’ll notice the goal is not to make everyone run the same way. I don’t believe there is one “true” running form that is perfect for everyone. We’re all different in shape, size, etc and that’s going to cause us to run differently, too. But I do believe there are general principles that can help you find your best form.
Who needs running form analysis
Although I believe that all runners can benefit from a comprehensive form analysis (including running-specific strength and flexibility testing), I think that it is ESSENTIAL for these three types of runners:
1. Beginning runners
If you’re a beginning runner, you have a great opportunity to get off on the right foot (har har). You haven’t learned good running form yet, but you probably don’t have many bad habits to break. Starting now with a good foundation of strength and flexibility, plus the tools to practice efficient form is a great “short-cut” to reducing wasted energy, and enjoying your running more.
2. Runners prone to injury
There is no silver bullet to avoiding running injuries. But if you find yourself dealing with a consistent injury, or various, smaller issues it makes sense to see if something is off mechanically. There may be something in your form that is causing you to over-stress a certain area, or causing you to use weaker muscles. Using those weaker muscles may make you compensate elsewhere and cause injury. Testing key running-specific areas and looking for form “red-flags” should be a piece of solving your injury puzzle.
3. Runners who are increasing distance or pace
If you’re planning to increase your routine — either distance or speed — it makes sense to do some “preventative maintenance” on your running form. Running farther or faster than you’re used to will put significantly stress on your body. Making sure that you don’t have any hidden issues beforehand will improve the odds that your body handles that increased stress without getting injured.
Practice makes natural
Once you have the tools in place, your form won’t magically be improved overnight. We all want to look like the top picture, but remember that it’s a learned skill. Through practice and repetition, you will find your running form — efficient, and most of all, natural.