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Running Form in the News

There have been two news items that caught my eye about a month ago.

From: NY Times “For Beginning Runners, Advice Can Be a Hurdle” [excerpt]


I wrote a column last month discussing whether runners should train with a coach — and not a single reader wrote in to ask how to find a coach. But many asked about something else.  I mentioned that my colleague Henry Fountain had started running with the help of a podcast. Readers wanted to know what podcast it was. “I really need it,” one wrote. (For the record, that podcast, on podrunner.com, is called “First Day to 5K.”)

That response is an indication, exercise researchers say, of two things: how hard it is for someone who is not used to running to suddenly take up the sport; and how unnecessarily complicated advice about running has become as “experts” battle over shoes and running form and training programs.

Take, for example, the notion that there is a perfect running form, like striking the ground with the midfoot or forefoot. There is no convincing evidence for this convoluted advice, disinterested researchers say. In fact, studies have found that individuals automatically run in a way that is most efficient for their own bodies. Those who change the way they run naturally are less efficient and more prone to injury.

“There is good evidence that your body is exquisitely lazy and will find the easiest way for you to run,” said Carl Foster, professor of exercise and sports medicine at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Even elite runners have a variety of styles. Some strike the ground with the heel, others with the midfoot. Some look elegant, while others look awkward and clumsy.

[more at article link]

I agree with the point of the article (just start running), with one caveat. Mix in some strengthening exercises (especially ab work) to your  “Just start running” plan. I agree with the spirit of “your body knows how to run”, but I think your body can over work some muscle groups to compensate for a weaker group.

Ryan Hall Ad

Watch this video and you see what I think is really good form. Ryan lands on the balls of his feet, has a quick turnover, and lifts his feet high off the ground. My argument for doing core strengthening and lifting is try to run like Ryan. You will probably find numerous muscles get tired more quickly than when you run like yourself. You might want to strengthen some of those muscles as a way of improving your form.

With everything related to running advice, remember that you are an experiment of one. Listen to your body. Pick out strands of advice that apply to your current situation and tune out the rest. Just start running! but with care.

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  1. January 4, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Great article… I think it all depends on how hard and how slow a runner takes up the sport. I would love a coach, if I could afford one


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