Tuesday evening, Christy and I did something we've been wanting to do for quite some time now but haven't been able to find what we wanted.
Brief history- I started running in February of 2010 using the Couch to 5K training program. I got a video analysis of my gait at a local running store and ended up learning about pronation and stability shoes- and ran happily in them until they started to break down within 3 months of purchase. Then I ended up with knee/IT Band/hip issues.
After I completed that 5K goal, I started following Christy's lead and learning more about running form. We started to read up on and watch videos about Chi, Pose, and Evolution. We fumbled through it all as best we could, applying the philosophy and techniques. Over the next many months, we worked more and more towards "minimalist" running. No rise in the sole of the shoe, midfoot landing instead of heel strike, forward lean from the ankle.
In February of 2011, I officially went full on minimalist with the purchase of a pair of true "weird" running shoes- the Merrell Barefoot. And I've never been happier!
Christy and I have talked many times about wishing we could be evaluated so we would know what we're doing right, what we need to improve on, and what we're doing completely wrong. But if you can find a Chi or Pose clinic or trainer, it costs $$$ to work with that person or group.
Talking to staff at my local running store is no help- I was told "you just run the way you run, there's nothing to changing your form, no purpose to it!" I knew the guy was wrong but also knew my novice runner status wouldn't give me much weight in the argument. By chance, we found that another local running store, The Runners Forum, offers a weekly running clinic called Good Form Running.
Good Form was started by Playmakers in Michigan. And it is, thankfully, spreading and growing into more common running realms. Best of all- the clinic is free. It's a marketing maneuver that works. Not only did I learn from the clinic, but now I'm comfortable at that running store and will go there without hesitation when the need arises.
There are 4 steps to Good Form. 1. Posture 2. Midfoot 3. Cadence 4. Lean
Our instructor, Adam, talked for a bit, showed a video or 2, and then we did a little light running down the store's indoor track strip as he video taped us. Towards the end of the clinic, we watched the video and were able to see, in slow motion, our form. We ran with shoes and then barefoot. Christy and I were ahead of the learning curve since we've already been working on this for so many months. We were able to get positive feedback on some things that we are each doing really well. And we were able to see some things we each need to work on.
My midfoot landing is good. My general form is good. I need to work on my upper body- I tend to move my shoulders too much. Adam says that doing a "posture reset" every mile or more will help immensely- that's raising the arms directly overhead just to pull everything up and into better alignment. Might look silly- but most runners don't worry about looking silly.
I also need to work on my cadence. Cadence is something I've only played with and haven't really spent any time truly working on incorporatinginto my running. I never would have thought of running to a metronome and was excited to learn that there are apps on smart phones that will keep cadence for you. And lean is something I've been working on and need to continue working on. You can run in place at the correct or ideal cadence- going nowhere. It's when you lean forward that you move. You lean from the ankles, not the waist.
I'm going to work on lean drills- standing still and leaning forward until I have weight stopping me at my big toes. I also need to work on strengthening my hip flexors (my Tuesday core class helps with that). I've played with lean and it scares me. When I really get my lean on... I go faster and that can be overwhelming. I came away with a confidence boost- I'm doing this pretty well. Really, I already knew that because my running is improving and I'm running without pain. But having validation from someone who is knowledgable is huge!
I also came away with things to work on and that's important, too. Part of what I like about running is that there is a sense of constant challenge. I can't get bored because there is always something to learn, something to do better.
Check out the Good Form website, check with your local running stores, see if you can find this clinic. It looks like Good Form is now being sponsored by New Balance since NB has come out with a new minimalist shoe and I think that the clinic will become more popular in running stores because of it. My one caution would be to try and work with a store that already sold minimalist shoes prior to the New Balance release. They should have already sold things like Vibram Five Fingers, Newton Trainers, Vivo, etc. Personally, I'd feel more confident learning from someone who really believes and lives this form and isn't just someone who has been trained to teach the class and is currently learning the form.