In this newsletter, Coaches Sandi and Sage will specifically focus on two different theories on how to implement running form changes. We don’t go super into depth as to what good running form looks like, but rather how to ensure proper implementation. If you’re interested on previous newsletters speaking specifically on running form, you can check those out HERE or HERE.

THEORY #1: Gradually Build Into ItThe first theory that a lot of the biomechanic experts go with. Basically, it suggests that when you implement a form change in the first two weeks, you really have to think about it, and you’re going to feel it with every single step. If you’re not feeling that form change, you’re probably reverting back to old habits and doing what you’re used to. So, that’s the first two weeks when you really have to think about it and feel it in your stride.
Then there are the second two weeks. In these two weeks, the movement you want to change is going to feel much easier, like you can do it, but you still have to think about it and keep checking in with yourself.

Finally, after those four weeks are up, the form change should be officially your new movement pattern. It’s programmed in your brain and in your body, so it should be a really fluid motion. That’s a big commitment for a form change, and a lot of people don’t think about that.

That’s why we say don’t implement a form change right before a race because it takes time for your body to get used to it and to build the right connections.

Understand What You’re Getting Yourself Into: It’s also important to know that this process can be quite tiring. We know this from first-hand experience! You have to constantly think about every step on every run, especially during those first two weeks. Make slight adjustments at a time. If you make too drastic of a change too fast, you won’t be able to compensate, or it will take a longer period of time to compensate.

A good way to check in on yourself is if you do a hard workout, have someone film you or set up a camera and see if you revert back to those old, poor form habits. When you’re tired, your form usually breaks down more, and you’re not thinking as much about the new changes you’re trying to make to your running form. Filming yourself or working with an expert is perhaps the best way to correct running form issues.

THE PROBLEM: A big problem we see with people who want to implement form changes is that they overcompensate somewhere, and that’s not what we’re looking for.You’re trying to address one pain and fix your form to do that, but then you end up with another pain on the other side of your body, which probably means you’re overcompensating somewhere. That’s why having a video of yourself running is important.

We suggest making just one change at a time. Focus on one change you can think of. You could think of a hundred different things as you’re running, what you’re changing with your form, but you want to focus on one change at a time and establish that new neuromuscular pathway—the connection between your brain and your muscles firing the correct way in the correct movement pattern.

THEORY #2: The Broomstick Cue The second theory is using a running form cue that you can incorporate into your movement patterns when considering your running form and making running form changes.
We will refer to it as the ‘broomstick cue.’ You don’t necessarily need an actual broomstick; you can use a Swiffer or even imagine a line at knee height with your plant foot.

The motion cue you should focus on during distance running is lifting up and over, where your foot clears the imaginary line or the stick and swings forward on the drive face. The idea is to lift up and over while thinking of another running form cue.
The Heel Flick TrickOne example of this is the ‘heel flick trick,’ where you attempt to kick your butt with your heel. However, that is usually an exaggeration and not necessary. It’s more appropriate for sprinting at high speeds with a high knee lift and drive. In distance running, it’s better to clear the parallel height to the ground.

Your leg should be at about that height as it moves forward, essentially creating a shorter lever with your leg. If you swing your extended leg forward without much knee bend, it becomes difficult to swing the entire leg. It’s challenging to generate the swinging motion when your leg is extended on the ground. It’s all about leverage.On the other hand, if your knee is more bent, the distance between your butt and heel becomes shorter. This shorter lever, with more mass closer to your center of mass, allows you to bring your leg forward more easily. This leads to improved efficiency, enabling you to transition into the next stride, which provides real propulsion, speed, and increased efficiency over longer distances.

In conclusion, implementing proper running form and making intentional form changes can significantly impact your running performance and reduce the risk of injury. By focusing on cues such as the “broomstick cue” and maintaining a shorter lever with a bent knee, you can improve your running efficiency and stride propulsion. Remember, it takes time and practice to establish new habits, so be patient and allow yourself a few weeks to adapt to the changes.

Filming yourself or seeking guidance from an expert can also be beneficial in tracking your progress and avoiding overcompensation. With dedication and consistent effort, you can enhance your running form and enjoy the benefits of improved performance and reduced injury potential. Keep striving for your running goals and enjoy the journey. Happy running!