One of the biggest drawbacks of coaching runners online is that I don’t ever get to see them run in person.
While I can learn a lot about my clients from their run data and the things that they tell me about their runs, one thing that I really struggle with is correcting poor running form.
Now, to be clear, I’m not a one size fits all kind of guy when it comes to anything.
And “proper” running for is no exception.
All of us are different, our bodies are all different, and we are all going to subtle nuances to our running form.
3 Common Running Form Faux Pas
That said, there are a few bad running form habits that many runners have developed that I feel like I should address.
If you’re guilty of any of these form faux pas, don’t feel bad. You have plenty of company.
If you’re looking to continue to improve as a runner tweaking these form faux pas could be the key to taking the next step in your development.
Form Faux Pas #1: Cross Body Arm Swing
No matter how fast or slow you are running, your arms are going to swing while you’re moving.
Unless you’re this lady…
Moving your arms while you run is normal, and a good arm swing motion will actually help to propel you forward.
What is a good arm swing? I’m glad you asked.
Your arms/hands should move forward and back only. No lateral movement required.
Why? Becuase you’re running ahead, not laterally!
If your arms are crossing the midline of your body, ie the imaginary line that splits your body into right and left sides, you are making it harder for your body to run forward.
It’s physics. It’s Newton’s laws of motion.
Science for the win!
But seriously, I see this A LOT when I’m running in town. And I’m shocked at how often I see this in runners that are legitimately fast. I mean, WAY faster than me!
And I’m shocked at how often I see this in runners that are legitimately fast. I mean, WAY faster than me!
I kind of want to give them a little “not for nothing” kind of talk, but I also don’t want to be that guy. That said, if you are swinging your arms across your body, I’d strongly encourage you to work on adjusting your arm swing to being front to back only.
That said, if you are swinging your arms across your body, I’d strongly encourage you to work on adjusting your arm swing to being front to back only.
It may feel awkward as hell at first, but once you get used to it will make you way more efficient.
And an efficient runner is a better runner, period.
Form Faux Pas #2: Running on Your Toes Only
This one is inspired by a client of mine, and it took us some months to figure out that the cause of his calf problems was that he was making a conscious effort to not let his heels touch the ground when he runs.
Allow me to back up a moment here.
I’m a proponent of a mid-foot/forefoot strike.
I believe, without question, that switching from a heel strike to a mid-foot strike saved my running career.
Point blank, if I didn’t make the switch I wouldn’t be here today typing this post and recording this episode of the show.
As more runners discover that a mid-foot strike can decrease the pounding on their joints while running, many are looking to amend their stride and avoid heel striking.
And that is exactly what my client did.
We talked about it, I helped him through the process, and things seemed to be going well.
And all of a sudden, he started telling me that his calves were bothering him all the time.
Now, this client had also made the switch to a zero-drop shoe, but the calf problems seemed to be showing up well after the adjustment period should have been over.
Honestly, I was at a loss.
He went to his doctor, he took time off from running, I was offering different suggestions of things to try, and nothing seemed to work.
Until one day he said something that caught my attention: he was running exclusively on his toes.
You see, what had happened was a simple misunderstanding.
This client was getting away from heel striking, somewhat at my suggestion, but he took that to mean that his heels should never hit the ground at all.
Whereas what I meant, and what I have since conveyed to him, is that we don’t want our heels hitting FIRST!
Once your mid-foot strikes the ground, you need to relax enough to allow the foot and ankle to go through their natural motions.
And that probably includes the heel touching down at some point.
Since addressing this with my client, his issue has almost completely disappeared. His running is more effortless, he’s made some dramatic leaps in pace, and most importantly he is running pain-free.
A small tweak in his form, and all of a sudden he is working with his body instead of working against it.
Form Faux Pas #3: Looking Down While Running
When you’re running, where do you look?
The obvious answer is in front of you, right?
Yes, you should be looking out in front of you while you are running. 10-15 feet in front of you, at least, to scan the path/trail/road for things that could cause you problems while running.
Pot holes. Debris. Tree roots. That sort of thing.
The only time you should really be looking down is when you are in the midst of a bunch of debris and you need to carefully select where each foot is going to land.
Yet I see many runners looking down at their feet while they are running, and this is bad for a couple of reasons.
One, I’ve had people almost run into me because they don’t see me coming toward them. Never mind that I’ve seen them approaching for the last few hundred yards, they had no clue.
Look up! See what’s in front of you!
You can look in front of you 10-15 feet, see something or someone approaching, and make the necessary adjustments to your route. If you’re running with your head down, you may not see the tree root until you’re tripping over it!
The other reason you shouldn’t be running with your head down is that keeping your head up and your shoulders back helps to open up your rib cage. Which makes it easier to breathe.
FYI, breathing is important.
Keep your head up and eyes forward to see what’s coming. And if you get in a crazy little spot where you need to look down to make sure you can plan each step, that’s fine.
But the majority of time, head up and eyes forward!
Do you make any of these running form faux pas?
If you do, don’t feel bad!
You’re certainly not the only one.
And besides, you can’t address something until you realize that it may be an issue.
Now you know.
If you swing your arms across your body, run on your toes, or look down while running, it’s time to tweak your form a little bit.
Fix that bad habit, and see how quickly your running improves!
Ever Commit Any of These, or Any Other, Running Form Faux Pas? Let Me Know Below!
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