How to Improve Running With Proprioceptive Cues


Based on what you read on the Internet, you might think that a midfoot landing pattern is the hallmark of good running form. That's not true at all. The true hallmark of skilled running is relaxation, or effortlessness. This is the very thing that comes automatically and unconsciously over time if you just keep running. This proprioceptive cue is intended to accelerate that process a little.

Imagine you're a car driving down a long, shallow hill. Then imagine putting the transmission in neutral. The hill is just the right gradient so that your speed stays constant as you coast. So the idea is that as you're running along you lock into a steady pace and then put your engine in neutral by trying to relax your whole body as completely as possible, letting "gravity" pull you forward for free. Just be sure you don't slow down in the process. That's why I like to do this one on a treadmill. You can set a fixed speed that won't vary and then see how much you can "coast" or relax at that speed.

More: How to Run Relaxed

Running on Water

One of the most important measurements of running form is ground contact time. The less time a runner's found spends in contact with the ground, the more efficiently he or she runs. Ground contact time increases as fatigue sets in. One way to reduce your ground contact time is by imagining that you're a skipping stone. Your feet are the stones and the ground is the water. To avoid sinking, you need to tap the surface lightly and quickly, so that your stones—I mean your feet—bounce off instead of splashing through.

Don't start bounding on your tippy toes. Proprioceptive cues aren't drills. They are simply helpful things to think about when you run. So just run normally but with this running-on-water image in your head.

More: Running Technique: The Importance of Cadence and Stride

Running Against a Wall

One of the most common stride flaws is overstriding, or placing the foot down on the ground in front of the body's center of mass instead of underneath it. This is like driving with the emergency brake on. To prevent overstriding, imagine you're running on a treadmill with a wall just inches in front of your nose. If you try to reach too far ahead of your body with your legs as you run, your knee or foot will hit the wall. To avoid bruising yourself, you must drop your feet down directly underneath your hips.

More: Improve Your Stride Without Trying

Sneaking Up

Faster runners tread lightly. They land more softly on the ground than do the rest of us. Fatigue tends to exacerbate the problem of stomping. Running biomechanics expert Irene Davis has shown that runners can learn to land more softly by simply trying to make less noise when they run.

Imagine you are catching up to a runner ahead of you in a race. You don't want her to know you're gaining on her. Listen to the sound your feet make as they land, and try to land more quietly. Don't think about how you achieve that effect in terms of your body's movements. Focus entirely on the sound you hear. If you do this, you will reduce your impact in the most natural way possible.

More: Should You Change Your Running Form?

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