Try googling ‘running technique’ and see how many hits you get, a hundred if not more. Pose, Chi, Evolution, plus dozens of outliers…the list seems endless. And if you’re like me, the idea of discovering the secret, of finding THE RIGHT WAY to run is very enticing! The prospect of a new PB, fewer injures, effortless speed and power…maybe even a better sex life…what’s not to like? I joke but only just. And while my tone re technique may sound a bit sardonic let’s be clear: I am not from the ‘running is natural just let it happen and everything will be fine” school either.
If we look up the word technique we come up with the following definition: “a way of carrying out a particular task.” Since we can all run, it would seem like we come “pre-loaded” with the right software for running technique. It’s not like the joke about the violin: Question: can you play the violin. Answer: don’t know, never tried. If any able bodied person tries to run they can. So what’s all the fuss about ?
Perhaps it’s because something seems to happen between childhood and the time when many adults decide to take up the sport. We just don’t move as well as we usta. Watch any 3 year old bend down and pick something off the floor and compare that with the same action performed by an adult. Observing the adult you’re probably not thinking “poetry in motion.”
Somehow folks don’t always link the deterioration in the fluidity of their everyday movements with how they run. “What does the way I bend or stand up have to do with the way I run?” Here’s a quick test that highlights the influence of posture and running. Next time you’re out for a run, slouch a bit so you’re looking at the ground and observe how this affects your breathing. Look for things like how easy it is for the air to come in and how much air you get on each breath. Then run a little taller and look out about 30 meters down the road and see if your breathing changes….any easier or deeper? More oxygen with less effort are part of what we’d call good running technique.
Most schools of running pay at least lip service to the importance of posture in running technique. There are some that go so far as to insist on a postural checklist that would do justice to a NASA pre-launch countdown….by the time you get through it all, the race is half over!!
There’s no doubt that better posture will improve running technique. . While appearing to be as simple as “sit up straight” posture is tricky to change and requires a state of awareness and mindfulness that conflicts with our modern lifestyle.
But what about running technique? For most recreational runners, the actual mechanics of running can be learnt in an afternoon as I have witnessed countless times over the past 25 years in my Art of Running workshops. Learning how to practice and integrate these skills is another matter and is the subject for another article. Overthinking and overanalyzing running technique is a great way to spoil a wonderful sport and can often lead to the law of diminishing returns: more and more investment for less and less return.
The bottom line: before you waste a lot of time and money trying to do something like increasing the angle of your hip at toe off, try improving your posture; improve it, improve your life, running including.