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360 YOU: The Importance of Focusing on Form

TrackClubBabe on why run technique is important, how you can make improvements, and how to actually capture your technique and evaluate it on your own.

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When I started running, no one was talking about running form. I always thought, it is what it is. There’s no changing what you have.

My boyfriend (now husband) Tyler (@tunderface) actually was the very first person who told me that, 1. My form looked terrible, and, 2. I could fix it. It sounded way too complicated for me and I was a bit lazy and overwhelmed with the concept of changing my form to take him seriously.

But then I saw myself in all my total exhaustion glory stumbling into the finish line of a super hot half marathon in Tijuana. I looked like a mess. That was the pivotal moment in my running form journey because it was at that moment that I was finally motivated to take my form seriously.

I started listening to his tips, starting with cadence and then working my way down the lineup. Surprise: My form improved and I started running faster!

Fun fact—my very first Instagram post to go “viral” (back when I had 1,000 followers) was my post showing my form transformation after a few months. I was pretty shocked that in a few months I could see a noticeable difference in my form. And I loved seeing that working on form was something that resonated with other runners too. It seemed like so many of us knew we needed to work on our form, but had no idea where to start.

Improved technique is possible for absolutely anyone. And that’s what I have tried to show on my Instagram @trackclubbabe — that anyone can improve their form and that it’s not as hard as it sounds.

What’s the big deal with form?

  • Good form helps you run efficiently so you can run faster, longer.
  • It helps reduce the risk of injury, and it helps you to relax and enjoy your runs (it’s all more enjoyable when we feel good doing it!)
  • Form is so important for any distance. We have a cap on our potential when we run with poor form. It’s worth the time and effort it takes to work on form for the long-term payout we’ll get with improved form.

How do we know if we need to work on our form?

Well, honestly, most of us do. Even the pros work on their form to have strong and efficient technique from start to finish of a race.

A really easy way to figure out what needs working on is to have someone film you running. It’s a lot easier to identify what looks good and what you need to focus on by watching yourself running. After seeing my Tijuana running video, I instantly saw why Tyler kept talking about cadence—I took the longest, bounding strides, as if I was trying to make it to the finish line in three big steps. In my mind, I thought I had great form, but the camera doesn’t lie and it was a helpful audit of what was actually going on.

If you have no idea what good form looks like, see if a coach or running mentor can take a look at your form and give you some helpful critiques. That’s a great starting point and then from there you can work on the actionable steps to improve the form elements that need your attention.

I think it’s also helpful to know what great form looks like. Watching videos of amazing runners is a great place to start to expose yourself to what good running form looks like so that you’re able to spot good form. And then once you compare it to your current running, it’s easier to see what needs work.

My form needs work, but where do I start?

I think cadence is the most natural place for so many of us to start. And when we address cadence, it can fix other form issues we have too. I always recommend starting with just one form element at a time. When you have focused on the one form element for a couple weeks, when it starts to feel more natural and that you’ve “mastered” it, then you move on and add on another element.

RELATED: Everything You Need to Know About Running Cadence

When do I work on form?

Easy runs are the best time to work on form. It’s the bulk of your miles each week, and you don’t have to be concerned about pace or distance, you can just focus on good form as you run. The great thing about working on it during the majority of your miles is that when you go to do workouts or races, good form feels a lot more natural because it’s been reinforced day in and day out on your easy days.

How soon should I expect results?

It really does come together quite quickly when you actually focus on it. Also, it may feel very weird and awkward at first and you may have some soreness as your muscles work in slightly different ways. Don’t panic—this is totally normal. As our body adjusts to more efficient form, it will start to feel more natural.

I like to use form cues as I run to remind myself of good form. I’ve been working on form for several years now and I still remind myself every run to hold good form. For me, form cues in my mind sound like:

  • SHOULDERS DOWN, ELBOWS BACK!!!!
  • Turnover, turnover, turnover
  • Quick steps
  • Strong posture
  • Relaxed face
  • Imagine hips pulling you forward
  • Controlled fall

It’s something that whether you’re starting a season, or deep into a race, you need to focus on and keep top of mind.

And when you do, great form resuscitates your paces, it helps running to feel more effortless, and it keeps you more efficient. All of these are such great reasons to put form as the focus for this next season. It’s going to pay off in huge ways for you. I cannot wait to share more action steps for getting the most efficient form for you!