Do You Need to be Taught How to Run? (part II)

Posted by Filed Under: Learn to Run, Running Form

(part two in a series)
the running mechanicIn Do You Need to be Taught How to Run Part I, we touched on some of the most common reasons why runners get injured, and concluded that poor running form is often left out of the discussion. That set the stage for Part II: Whether you should work on improving your form.

What we’ll assume for today’s discussion is that there is some need or desire for a change in your running form. Perhaps you know there is a problem, or someone (e.g., a coach) has told you there is a problem. With that as our starting point, let’s get interactive and take the highly unscientific Should You Change Your Form? test!

  1. How long have you been running?
  2. > Less than 2 years: 3 points
    > I’ve been at it for 2 to 5 years: 2 points
    > I’ve been running for 5 to 10 years: 1 point
    > Over 10 Years: 0 points

    The number of years you’ve been running is a strong indicator of how difficult even minute changes will be, and may also dictate your chances of success. The longer you’ve run, the more ingrained your mechanics (mental and physical) will be. Veteran runners will likely have more difficulty than ones with fewer miles under their belts.

  3. How much of a change is needed?
  4. > Minor Tweaking: 3 points
    > I’ve got a bit of work to do: 2 points
    > Fairly major: 1 point
    > It’s a total overhaul: 0 points

    In case you are scratching your head about the scoring on this one, let me explain: A total overhaul would certainly imply you should work on your form. However, the more substantial the change, the harder it’s going to be to stick to the task and succeed. In other words, this question speaks more to your probability of success than to a physical need for change.

  5. How firmly are you committed to racing now or in the near future?
  6. > I could give up racing racing for 12+ months: 3 points
    > I’d like to be racing within 6 to 12 months: 2 points
    > I want to race within 3 to 6 months: 1 point
    > Racing is ongoing and I won’t give it up: 0 points

    Depending on the extensiveness of the change to be made, you may have to put racing on hold. The more extensive the change, the longer you might have to put racing on the backburner.

  7. How strong is your attachment to running a given distance?
  8. > I could go back to the beginning and run 50 meters at a time if I had to: 3 points
    > I wouldn’t feel right running less than a mile at a time: 2 points
    > I’d be ok as long as I could get my 30 minutes a day in: 1 point
    > I wouldn’t do it if I had to sacrifice distance or mileage: 0 points

    Would you be able to live with not running as fast, or as far as you’re accustomed to? The more radical the change, the longer you will likely not be able to run as far (or as fast) as you are now. If you can’t live with that, you are also likely a “no.”

  9. Are you suffering from chronic injuries?
  10. > I can’t seem to run more than a few months at a time without sustaining some kind of injury: 3 points
    > I am injured on average once a year or so: 2 points
    > I don’t often get injured: 1 point
    > I am never/almost never injured: 0 points

    You’ve spent on shoes and orthodics, done strength training and had physio-therapy but you’re still suffering. Runners who are at the end of their ropes are often very open to trying whatever will break them out of that cycle.

  11. How badly do you want to change?
  12. > It’s the most important thing to me right now: 3 points
    > It is quite important to me: 2 points
    > It is somewhat important to me: 1 point
    > It’s not really important to me: 0 points

    Desire is power. If you really want to change your form, you’ll probably be successful. I suspect that’s why world-class athletes spend more time on technique than most runners—because it’s one ingredient in their recipe for success.

How Did You Do?

  1. 13 to 15 points: You are both physically and mentally primed for change. In fact, you’d probably be unwise not to change. What are you waiting for?
  2. 9 to 12 points: Although you may experience minor bumps in the road, you are an excellent candidate for change.
  3. 6 to 8 points: You are a borderline candidate. Your success will most certainly be determined by your dedication and mental committment. In other words, it’s going to be work but my bet is you can do it if you set your mind to it!
  4. 3 to 5 points: It is not recommended that you attempt to change your form. Although success is not impossible, your mind and body will likely work at odds and you may turn out worse than when you began.
  5. 0 to 2 points: Don’t even think about it. The good news is that even if you might benefit from form work, not proceeding will not hurt. It’s likely you’ve never been injured and are very happy with your running so why change a good thing?

So, now that you have a tool for helping you decide whether you should work on your form, we can proceed with some discussion around the potential gains and risks for doing so. We’ll do that in part III.

About Mark Iocchelli

Also known as the "Running Blogfather", I'm a 40-something marathoner who has beaten stress fractures and terrible shin splints. Now I'm running double the mileage with no pain - and I'm getting faster. I love to talk about running form and Arthur Lydiard. I also enjoy taking photographs, have a beautiful (and very patient!) wife, and am the proud father of two crazy kids. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments about the site.

  1. Kim on June 21st at 7:05 pm

    I am confused. A friend told me, after finding out that I was training for my first 5K, that running increases your chance of knee replacement. Is this true? I am trail running 90% of the time. Right now, I am running 3 miles/ 3 days a week. Any advice or encouragement would be great!


    Kim’s last blog post..Sabotage

  2. Blaine Moore (Run to Win) on June 23rd at 7:52 am

    Kim, your friend has no idea what they are talking about. If you have an existing knee condition, then your doctor may determine that running could lead to a knee replacement, but for the average person with no remarkable health risks there isn’t much danger. The best thing to do is to talk to your doctor who will know your situation and can offer relevant advice, and to ignore people who are jealous of your drive to want to get in shape.

    Blaine Moore (Run to Win)’s last blog post..This Week Last Year » Bikes, Fueling & Walking

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