Running Form Shaming?

It’s a treat for the everyday runner to get the opportunity to watch elite runners in person. It’s not the same watching on TV or online. Their power, grace, determination and talent are ar more inspiring in person.

Ever since returning from LA watching the US Olympic marathon trials last week, I’ve replayed the images of the over 300 men and women who competed that morning. I am struck however by something beyond how fast they run compared to the rest of us mortals (men at five minute miles and women in low to mid-five minute range – for 26.2 miles). Running form.

I noticed that among these elite athletes – arguable the absolute top couple hundred US distance runners – male and female; the wide variety of running form. And just as with the millions of everyday runners, there were the heel strikers, forefoot strikers, mid-foot strikers. There were motionless upper bodies with arm swaying uppers; low arm carriers and high arm carriers; shuffling strides and bouncy middle distance track-like strides; upright postures to more forward leans; feet that tracked in perfect straight lines to those that splayed outward and some with loping long strides (for their height) – to short choppy strides. Yes, there are some who may epitomize what most runners view as a “perfect” form. You could point to Galen, Meb, Shalane or Amy (and perhaps to that runner in your club or on the street you see).

The one thing however that unites every one of those elite runners is not running form. Discipline. Hard work. Dedication. Pain tolerance. A mindset to do what it takes to optimize their own genetic talents and not to run like someone else.

Coaches (including myself), runners, physical therapists, biomechanists often simply get too technical. The #1 controllable difference between everyday/age group runners and elite runners is the fact that they are highly trained specifically for their event. It is not their running form. Great running form minus great training yields slow racing. They train better. They have comprehensive year round training programs. They train specifically for their event (not every weekend race that pops up).

My take-away: If you want to be a faster runner then focus on training better to become a better runner. Stop trying to become someone else. Stop comparing your running form to someone else’s. Stop trying to make your running form like someone else’s. Optimize YOU.

[As an aside: I’ll give a nod to #1 difference being genetics. Even if we trained like elite runners most of us would never be as fast as them.]

Need help reaching your goals? Running faster? Drop me a line.


About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
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2 Responses to Running Form Shaming?

  1. dwgunn1 says:

    I agree most enthusiastically! The two MOST important factors in becoming an elite runner are genetics and appropriate training.

    Most of us simply do not possess the elusive right genetic make up to be an elite runner. Train as we might, it just ain’t gonna happen. The elite runners we see and admire all possess the right gene combination, and they have optimized that uncontrollable factor be focusing and training to do one thing really, really well.

    For the rest of us, we must be satisfied with optimizing what we do have – not hoping for something that is impossible.

    For myself, I ran travk in high school and didn’t run competitively until I was in my 40’s. I think I simply tried to do too much within the 10 years after that. Now my knees bark at me and I am plagued with plantar issues. I still run, but but not as fast as I once did, nor as often. I swim more, hike more, and even use a treadmill to run much of the time.

    I admire elite runners for their genetic predisposition and committment to sll the training. But, as a word of advice, afmire yourself for battling through all your obstacles. We are stronger individuals for having done so, whether it is ruuning or something else. As my young son once said, “Life is just a metaphor for life!”

    Peace out!

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