Seeing yourself run is something like listening to your voice in a recording. It kind of makes you cringe. You wonder if you really look like that. At the run show, New Balance and Good Form Running gave us the distinct opportunity of being recorded so we could see ourselves run. We hopped on the treadmill, got up to a good pace, then hopped off and let the nice young men criticize us. It was quite informative.
I had no idea, for example, that my hair gets so bouncy when I run. I also didn’t realize that I kind of look chubby. (Perhaps I can blame that on the treadmill. Or maybe the camera just added 10 pounds.) And I certainly didn’t know that I straightened my leg before I hit the ground.
Of course, watching yourself run does nothing for you if you don’t know what to look for. It would be easy for me to look at myself run and think, “Man, I’ve got to do something about that hair.” Or, “Note to self: next time I buy a new shirt, make sure it doesn’t poof in the front.” The straight leg part would have been totally lost on me if it weren’t for those nice young men. But they did know, and they were kind enough to point out my form had some inefficiencies, things that are slowing me down and could possibly cause injury.
It doesn’t really matter that my hair bounces, of course, and nobody but me would ever think I look chubby when I run. But it could be kind of a big deal that I straighten my leg. It means I’m causing my knees, hips, and back to absorb a lot more stress than they would if I landed with a bent knee. It also means I’m probably taking longer than I need to get off the ground again.
So what is good running form? How can you improve it? Allow me to demonstrate for you (if you can stand to hear my recorded voice, that is).
Here’s a recap in case I went too fast (or you couldn’t hear me, or you couldn’t stand to watch me for two minutes). First, straighten your posture. No hunching shoulders or bent backs. Second, bend your knees slightly to help absorb impact. Third, swing your arms close to your body. Fourth, hit the ground mid-foot (not with your heel or with your toes). Walk in place for a minute to get the feeling of hitting mid-foot. Fifth, try to take about 180 steps a minute. And last of all, lean slightly forward from the ankles so gravity can do its job and pull you forward.
Try it. See how it feels.