Running Technique, Riding a Bicycle, and Repetition

If you watched the New York City Marathon yesterday, either in person or on TV, you may have noticed something if you watched carefully. It’s pretty amazing, even extraordinary: People have different running styles. Woah! Can you believe it? Unbelievable!

Most runners heel-strike, others mid-foot strike. Some hold their arms low, some hold them high. Some even make circles with their arms and twist their torso. Some runners’ technique is as pretty as pretty can be, some are as ugly as ugly can be. And guess what? It’s not all the elites that look pretty and all the recreational runners who look ugly. They are all mixed: Some recreational runners look pretty and some elite runners look ugly. But somehow, they all get the job done.

Most people who run are told there’s a specific technique they should use. But no one really knows what the “best” way to run is, or even if there is a “best” way at all. The “best” way is likely slightly different for each runner, because every runner subconsciously runs as efficiently as he or she possibly can. Your body is not going to do what is inefficient, and it is not going to adapt in a way that hurts you. Running biomechanics are influenced by skeletal alignment, flexibility, and strength. If you try to change a runner’s biomechanics without changing the factors that influence it, he or she can get injured.

Like any other skill, from playing the piano to riding a bicycle, running expertise comes through constant repetition. Read that sentence again.

Acknowledging that there is no ideal running technique that should be adopted by every runner, there are certain things you should strive for when you run. The most important technical thing a runner should focus on is having the foot land as close to directly underneath the hips as possible. This minimizes any deceleration (“braking”) and assists the “rolling” from one step into the next.

If there is nothing else you focus on, focus on that. Get your feet under your hips when they land on the ground. You can also think of this as moving your hips to keep up with your legs so that the hips are directly over the feet when they land. Everything else will take care of itself if you run enough to ingrain the movement.

If you have not ordered your copy of THE INNER RUNNER yet, Christmas and Hanukkah are coming. And this year at the same time!

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