Create Your Running Form Mantra

Last week Rachel Scheiner and I kicked off our 12-week training program with a clinic on running form and efficiency. We go over several points about posture, stride length, foot strike and efficient propulsion and give everyone drills they can do to begin to integrate the feeling of each aspect.

Here’s a little primer of some of the points we hit:

  • Posture: Ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles are aligned and the entire body leans forward from the ankles, not from the hips.
  • Focus: Look about 30 feet in front of you, not down, and not quite at the horizon.
  • Vertical Bounce: Direct your energy forward, not up. Pick an object in the distance and make that object stop bouncing.
  • Shoulder and Arm Movement: Relax shoulders and let the arms swing in slots next to the ribs. Hands shouldn’t cross the body’s mid-line and shouldn’t drop below the waist. Use your arms- they help your legs move forward.
  • Strong Core: Draw your navel in toward your spine. Give your legs a strong foundation to push against. Develop the core strength to keep from collapsing into your hip on each stride.
  • Little Kick: Activate the hamstrings to bring your foot toward your butt at the end of your stride.
  • Shorter Stride: Your foot should land beneath you, not out in front of you.

We suggest each runner create his or her own chain of short mantras that they can repeat as they run to keep focused on their form. Depending on what technique issues people have, they might create a mantra with several of the above elements. One of our runners Tina had the smart idea of putting these in order from head to foot as an easier way to remember them. This results in mantra chains such as:

Focus out, drop shoulders, navel-to-spine, little kick.

Falling forward, no bounce, arms swing, strong core, feet beneath.

My mantra chain of the moment is: tall and forward, drop shoulders, strong core, hot feet. (the idea of hot feet keeps my foot strike light and quick)

If you’re a runner, or becoming one, check these things out to see if you can become more efficient and less injury prone. And spread the word on this, would you? Living down on Lakeside, I see hundreds of runners a week, and sometimes have to keep myself from shouting out a running form suggestion to them. “Hey! Use your arms!”


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