Poor Form

Today I woke up at seven and reluctantly got out of bed. For the last year I’ve been attending group runs at the local running store, but the past four weeks I’ve been away. I decided I needed to return to my routine and get in a few miles this morning. Sadly I was the only slow runner this morning, there was no one to accompany as I ran four miles (and I forgot my iPod, grr). At first I tried to keep up with the faster ladies. Then, after half a mile, I realized that going out of the gate that fast is killer. I slowed quite a bit and tried to focus on how I was running rather than my pace.

At speed training this past Wednesday, Coach Brenda photographed each runner as we were sprinting around the track. Since she is a pro, she analyzed each photo to help give feedback. I was informed that I am not overstriding, which is a good thing, but it seems my arms are too high. I need to lower my elbows and keep my hands lower than my waist. If I can learn to do this, I will waste less energy (and maybe go faster?).

I’m not horribly proud of how I am running in the second photo. As you can easily see, I’m blatantly heel striking. I’d like to blame the fact that I was tired. It was 92° and horribly humid, we ran 3×200, 400, 3×200, 400, 3×200. But who knows when that photo was taken, it could have been my first lap around. So what does this mean for me? I need to focus, to really consider how I’m holding my upper body and change how I land. I thought about that this morning, trying to lower my elbows and relax my shoulders. It didn’t work as naturally as I’d like, but practice will (hopefully) make perfect. Right?

Help me: Do you have any suggestions on how to improve your form? What techniques do you use to keep proper form while running?

Have you entered my Coach’s Oats giveaway? You should! Do it for a chance to win a week’s worth of oat deliciousness.


About Michelle

I'm an engineer living (and running) in Palo Alto, CA.

Posted on June 11, 2011, in Running and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. When I first started running, it was really hurting my shoulders for some reason. You actually told me that my arms were way too high, so now when I run, I work on my posture so I don’t lift them too high again. I keep my stomach tight, which keeps my back straight, and then I try to make sure that my elbows are at a larger angle than 90-degrees. It’s just too bad my calves can’t be fixed in by a similar change …

    • Why would you ever listen to me? :)
      And your calves will be fixed soon and then, then you’ll get back at it. Soon enough you’ll be conquering your own half or full marathons.

  2. I always keep my arms up too high as well. No advice on how to stop doing it though! When I’m working on form, I always focus on staying upright, shoulders open and not clenching fists. I have awful posture (I say, slouching over my lap top). Do you run with the Pacers on Saturdays as well?

    • I do indeed run with the Pacers. I was a pace leader through the winter. We typically have a huge turn out, but people didn’t run yesterday since they were preparing for the 10k race this morning. You should come check us out!

  3. What a great idea! I think your coach’s suggestions are spot on. I know that my running form definitely goes south when I’m tired and that sounds like quite a workout!

    My top tips are:

    aim for a mid or front foot strike (not heel)

    try to ensure that your legs and arms are moving forward and not around and to the side, etc

    relax your arms more than you usually do (I like to shake mine out several times each run)

    relax your shoulders, most runners tend to hold them to tight

    look ~20 feet ahead of you to make sure you’re not bending over or holding your body back too much

    Focus on calm breaths

    I could go on and on but those are my top ones! :) Hope you’re having a great week!

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