Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Focus On Form: Lift & Strengthen

This picture is from a track workout this past summer
where I was specifically working on form at faster speeds
... plus, it was taken in THE SUMMER and makes me feel warm!

When I overhauled my stride a couple of years ago, it forced me to do a couple of things ...

1. Focus on good running form every run
2. Strengthen my hips to maintain that good form

And something that really helps me when I'm a little out of shape from a "long winter's nap" like I am now, is going back to these basics.  Focusing on good running form, and strengthening my hips makes all the difference for me.

Good Running Form
From studying the POSE technique of running, and also talking to a few expert coaches and bloggers, I discovered that I was a "swinger".  This meant that in my poor "heel-striking" form, I would consistently "swing" my leg through from back to front, and then slam it - heel first - into the ground.  The POSE technique is largely predicated on lifting the front leg, with knee bent, and then making "controlled contact" with the ground as your front foot lands.  I worked for a long time on this form (sounds easy enough, but it's not) before finally getting it somewhat correct.  Making these adjustments worked wonders on my running.  Not only in maintaining better running health, but it also drastically improved my results.  I'm still very much a work in progress, but my form is a lot better than it used to be.

However, like many of us, when I get a little tired during a run, my form starts to revert back to the old habits.  I don't really have to focus on a forefoot land, as opposed to a heel-strike, as much as I used to ... but man, I really swing that leg through instead of lifting.  This swinging motion can cause your hips to "collapse" (dip), and puts a lot of undue pressure on the lower back and upper quads.

This past summer, I spent a day at the track running by my camera ... over and over ... which was positioned on the ground, taking high-shutter-speed "selfies" of my form.  I learned a lot about the way my foot was striking the ground, my body position, and just exactly how much I was lifting my leading leg.  I love this photo because it was taken on a nice warm July day.  And as I sit here freezing in January, it reminds me that better days are ahead.  But I also like it because it's one of the few running photos I have where my form is actually pretty decent.

In the picture, I have a nice  forward lean as opposed to being too vertical.  My front landing foot is relaxed, at a natural 90 degree angle, ready to be placed under my center of gravity, instead of reaching way out in front of me and forcing an over-stride.  And most importantly, I'm lifting my front leading leg, with my knee shooting toward the sky and properly bent, as opposed to swinging that leg through as it makes it way to the front.  Form like this is something I aim for on all my runs, and I've been trying to work on it this winter to get back to where I was this summer.

Hip Strengthening
Good running form, especially the "lift", comes with plenty of proper practice and repetition, but it is also aided significantly with strong hips.  A runner's power comes from the piston-like churning hips.  Strengthening my hips has really helped me over the past few years, and it's something I work on fairly regularly.  I shared this last year as well, but here is a "Hip Strength Training For Runners" video that I put together that briefly demonstrates my hip routine.  Like I mention in the video, of course I don't think I'm an expert with this stuff - these are just a few ideas that work for me.  None of them are "Jim Weatherly Originals", just a compilation of things I've learned over the years.

I have so much to learn as a runner, and I love reading other folk's blogs to find out what makes them successful.  So please simply view this post as information - take it or leave it.  But I can honestly say that utilizing a focused approach on first - improving my form, and second - strengthening my hips, has helped me make great strides in my running.  Pun intended.  Have a great week!
... be great today!


  1. Thanks for the video! Since I wasn't reading your blog last year (for shame), I missed out on it the first time around.

  2. You picked the perfect photo for the post! It reminds me of what's ahead :) I miss the track!!!
    I've been working on form too- just in slow motion lately :)

  3. I am sitting here huddled up in a blanket so your summer picture kind of makes me feel colder. I love learning things from blogs too, thanks for sharing. and thanks for the comment about the tight hammies/groin problems. I am currently working on loosening my hammies so maybe that is part of the problem!

  4. I've been working really hard on my hips - and they need it. I also noticed that I'm not lifting my legs much - especially my left leg - while I run. Over the last few weeks I've tried creating more mobility in the hip flexors, which allows my to lift my knee for a stride. My natural running gait looks like I'm just walking quickly!

  5. that video is excellent... and something productive to do on a "rest day"!


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