Even though we wish improving running form was easy and immediately felt good, it’s a challenging process that requires constant attention.
Some awkwardness and stiffness are expected, but if you are diligent and make good habits over weeks (if not months), things will hopefully start to click into place!
For this week’s newsletter, Coach Sandi Nypaver gives you some brief background on her running form journey, as well as what to do yourself if you’re feeling like you can’t get the answers you’re looking for.
“A few years ago, I was having some difficulty with my running form and getting things to feel good. It’s always been a bit of a journey, and I’ve also dealt with my fair share of injuries. This was a little different. I felt like I had the ability to produce good running form, but something wasn’t clicking. This wasn’t me trying to “run through an injury.” But rather, I was trying to optimize my running form for efficiency and effectiveness. I made the decision to see an amazing PT, Tim, in Boulder who would go on to help me on my running form journey.
To cut to the chase, my left knee had a habit of reaching for the stars compared to its more reserved counterpart. Cue the confusion: do I tinker with my arm swing, lower the lift on one leg, or summon the other to new heights? Tim and I explored it all, leading to a three-mile journey of discovery on the treadmill during physical therapy.
What worked wonders was Tim’s idea to use a band attached to the treadmill, ensuring both legs came to the same height. The immediate change was visible, albeit a bit awkward at first. Tim listened to my feet hitting the treadmill and noticed that raising my right leg higher resulted in a softer landing for my left foot.
Why does this matter? Well, it turns out my left Achilles has been voicing its concerns for over eight years. Tim couldn’t confirm it as the sole culprit, but he did acknowledge that my running form likely contributed to the chronic Achilles pain.
Now, the real challenge begins—making this new form feel like second nature. Spoiler alert: it’s harder than it sounds. Changing cadence might be fairly straightforward, but convincing your body to adopt a new knee-raising routine felt a lot more daunting to me!
But here’s the thing: awkwardness can be the first step to improvement when changing running form. If it feels too familiar, you’re probably slipping back into old habits. So, embrace the awkwardness, take videos of your runs regularly, and track your progress. It’s a journey of body awareness, and it’s worth every awkward step.
I can’t predict the future, and neither can Tim, but I’m hopeful. If you’re in a similar boat—struggling with your form, battling chronic pain—keep asking questions and seeking different opinions. It’s been a game-changer for me.
A few years ago, I was told by a doctor to find a new sport because my Achilles looked “awful.” A second opinion saved me from major surgery, and I decided to go a different recovery and rehab route. The road to recovery is often winding, but don’t lose hope.
Finally, if you’re in the midst of trying to change and improve your running form,
remember to give yourself some grace. It’s a big task you’re putting on yourself! Maybe you have to skip a speed workout or lower your mileage. That is OK! Take it day-by-day and listen to your body. When you’re changing running form, I think it’s important to go with the flow because it’s going to feel awkward for a while and it can get to be mentally exhausting. You are trying to essentially re-condition your body to do something that it’s entirely not used to!”