A couple Saturdays ago, I attended a Good Form Running clinic at a local running store. I decided it was my big “something new” for my March goals. I’ve read plenty of things about running form, watched videos, etc, but it’s awfully hard to find a place to stare at yourself in action. So I signed up for the running clinic.
I didn’t know what exactly to expect going in. I knew we would be doing drills, so I dressed appropriately. The group of people attending the clinic were friendly, of all ages, and with all sorts of running backgrounds. One guy was just starting up again, a few others had barely begun, etc. It was nice that it was a diverse crowd. The instructor started off talking about the 4 basic principles of GFR: posture, mid-foot strike, cadence, and lean. We did a couple of drills and then we were videotaped running through the store (which was apparently supposed to be done first), which we would see later after we had gone through everything and knew the “proper” way.
I was sort of familiar with a lot of this going in. Mid-foot strike is the part of my running form that I have tried to get the most right, especially since the shoes I run in almost demand you land properly. My posture is not so great any way, so I knew that probably wasn’t right. As far as cadence goes, I had tried to run with a metronome app before, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. Lean was something new to me as well and not something that I naturally do, I don’t think. We talked about and did drills for each principle.
Posture was the first thing we talked about. This was the driver behind getting me into the clinic. After overhearing another GFR class talking about what your shoulders do during a run, I realized that things were not so hot there. I went out the next day, tried to keep my shoulders down and relaxed and had a much happier run because of it. The importance of staying straight and aligned properly from top to bottom hadn’t really sunk in until we went over it in class. This is one of the toughest parts for me, but I’m hoping that with practice, my normal posture will also improve.
The mid-foot strike drill was similar to the 100-Up that Chris McDougall talks about here, so I was familiar with that. The instructor for the clinic repeated several times that you can get the proper foot strike in any shoe. Minimalist shoes and a few others in that range are made with the intention of helping you to have the proper foot placement. Heel-striking is very bad for you and seems to be the cause of a lot of injury, so I think doing things to help promote proper strike is important. Personally, I can’t imagine heel-striking in my Merrells and I think that has been really helpful.
Our cadence drill consisted of running in place and then running around the store at different paces. 180 steps/minute really isn’t difficult, but if you’re over-striding (and therefore taking fewer strides), it can be much harder. Lean was literally just feeling the proper lean of the body. You don’t want to fall over, but you need to lean forward sort of until your toes “catch.” This one was hard for me to really feel and I need more practice there.
After the drills, we watched the video of ourselves running in slow motion. The instructor said I do something pretty common with minimalist shoe wearers: a slight forefoot strike with a roll back to the middle. Apparently this is not a problem as long as I am not running on my tiptoes (something I think I was doing for awhile early on). I still end mid-foot, I just start a little forward. The foot strike was not actually the most enlightening part. My shoulders were the real problem. They kept doing this strange shrug motion as I went. It’s hard to say whether it was just the close quarters we were running in or what, but I have put a lot more emphasis on posture, relaxing my shoulders, etc since seeing myself. I think I am making improvements on that front at least. I am still working on cadence and lean also, but I will be happy for now if I can get half of it down pretty well.
The GFR site has videos about all of these things and will probably explain things much better than I can. It’s good to note that GFR is only one of several methods that all teach essentially the same thing. Good Form Running just happens to be the name that New Balance uses for it. When I decided to go with a barefoot/minimalist shoe, I came across links you can find under the “minimalist running” tag pretty helpful.