As a runner, learning to analyze your stride is one of the most important things you can do. The rate of injury for runners has never been higher and it can largely be attributed to the perception that running is something that you just do. You put on some shoes (or don’t put on some shoes) and get out there and run. No right or wrong way to do it – just make sure you’re literally moving one foot in front of the other.
That is such crap.
I’ll buy that exercising in any form is better than not exercising, but I think that for anyone who runs more than a few miles per month (all serious runners), they are highly likely to hurt themselves if they just go out and run. It’s why high school track athletes get hurt so often. It’s why weekend warriors get hurt so often. It’s why trained professionals get hurt less often (they are coached).
Don’t do this. Learn what makes up your stride and how you can optimize it to make sure you’re running safely and getting peak performance for the effort you’re putting in.
Learn to Analyze and Optimize Your Stride
How can you optimize your stride and get the most out of running?
- Learn about running form. Visit this site and others like it. Become a student of running form. Learn about the different types of foot strike and how small changes in your body’s positioning can cause big differences in your stride. Discover how injuries happen and how form affects them. Soak as much information in as you can!
- Study yourself. Instead of zoning out and letting your mind wander, actively focus on something when you’re running. Do whatever works for you. When you start paying attention, you’ll begin to notice things that are out-of-whack. You might notice that you rotate your torso or swing your arms wildly to correct your balance (very common). You might tilt your head way back, gasping for air (also common). You might even notice your stride is longer on one side than the other (you have a muscle imbalance, also common). If you have a camera (even a smartphone will work), have someone videotape you at various points of your run. Are you okay at the beginning but your form breaks down on longer runs as you tire? Do you heel strike even though you feel like you are forefoot striking? You’d be surprised what a simple videotape will reveal.
- Make small changes. You need to correct what’s wrong. What worked for me was focusing on one small tweak at a time and practicing it until I got it right. It took a long time and was occasionally annoying, but I eventually got it right. The nice thing is that good form works with the so-called “snowball effect”. As the small changes add up to improve your form, you passively start doing other things correctly that you were previously doing incorrectly, because running is really one fluid motion.
- Take it slowly. Come up with a training plan. For the experienced runner, it’s easier to “wing-it” and not follow a strict plan, because you know your body and know when you need to slow down or stop. Inexperienced runners are usually more focused on just making it to the next telephone pole or whatever object lies ahead of them. It’s important to remember that things like cross-training and weight training will make you stronger and able to go faster and for farther distances. It’s also extremely important to rest yourself. Overuse injuries are the most common types of injuries, and they happen because your form breaks down when you get tired, and bad form leads to injury.
Side note: If you’re injured – let yourself heal. Running on an injury will only make the injury worse and turn a small injury into something that can potentially last for a long time and become significantly worse. It’s better to rest and then rehab than injure yourself simply because you’re impatient. Part of your training regimen should include scheduled rest. Your body needs to have recovery time to grow stronger.
If you learn to analyze yourself and correct your form, you can be confident knowing you have good form and can worry less about injury and more about your goals.