This post is the tenth in a series explaining The Balanced Runner Keys.
You’re probably reading this blog because you want to learn the right way to run. You may have very pressing reasons for that — perhaps you’re hurt, or you feel like running is really taking a toll on your body, or you feel there’s a better runner inside you. These reasons may lead you to work very hard on your running technique, trying to get it right.
This is consistent with what many people say about working on your form or technique — getting it right is really a lot of work, takes concentration, and may even require you to cut your running way back, only running as far as you can do so with good form until you gradually get strong enough to maintain it for longer and longer distances.
There are two problems with that. One of them is that good running technique is easier than bad running technique, and if you have to work that hard to execute any particular kind of movement, it isn’t good technique! I’ve written about that general principle many times in this blog and will do so many more times because while obvious it’s generally overlooked.
My focus today, though, is on the other problem with trying so hard to run right: you have skipped a step. A crucial step. Without it you can’t run correctly no matter how hard you try, and it’s this: you have started by trying to run right instead of taking time to become aware of how you naturally run.
Becoming aware of what you’re doing is the necessary precursor to any improvement. If you’re lost in a city, you can’t use a map to figure out how to get where you’re going until you figure out where you are. Once you know your location, then you know whether to turn right or left at the next intersection. If you don’t know where you are, all you can do is flail.
It’s the same thing with how you move your body — how would you know what to change if you don’t know what you’re doing?
In all likelihood, the reason many runners skip this step is that it may feel hard to tell what you’re actually doing. But that begs the question — how are you going to accurately feel whether you’re executing the changes you’re trying to make if you can’t feel what you’re doing? So skipping the awareness step isn’t an option.
Not only that, but simply paying attention can improve how you do an activity, without any instruction being necessary. To see what I mean, try these two experiments:
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Jae Gruenke, GCFP, is a running technique expert and Feldenkrais Practitioner. Known as a “running form guru,” she is the Founder and CEO of The Balanced Runner™ in New York City and The Balanced Runner UK. She has helped runners from beginner to Olympian improve their form to become pain-free, economical, and fast.