From the Author
If this is true, why do many of us struggle on the run? We watch great athletes and marvel at how comfortably they move: effortlessly, perfectly balanced, barely seeming to touch the ground as they glide by. We want to run that way, but often feel that we're painfully pounding the ground and pulling our reluctant bodies along by sweat and will.
Are some runners simply gifted with good mechanics? Did they learn how to run that way from a good coach? Is it all about the shoes?
During my 15 years as editor of Running Times, I heard every possible theory on how to run better. I watched fads come and go, listened to each new expert tout their method as the best and only way to run, and followed each trend in shoes that promised to solve all of our problems. Three years ago, when minimalism and the barefoot craze collapsed on its own promises as runners failed to adapt and continued to get injured, I felt like runners were left uncertain amid a confusing mess of conflicting voices.
I wanted to discover if there was anything that experts agreed upon, anything that we know for certain about how to run. Over the course of two years, I interviewed many of the world's top coaches, biomechanical researchers, physicians, and physical therapists. I learned that what they agree upon is not a specific running style but a few optimal running mechanics that often get compromised by our daily habits.
When you were young, you could run around a playground all day, effortlessly. If you had grown up in rural Kenya, where you walked and ran for transportation and spent much of your days playing and working outside, you'd likely still run that easily and comfortably. Unfortunately, from the time you were four or five years old, you started sitting in a chair eight or more hours a day. As you got older, you spent more time sitting during work and leisure, so that now your hips are almost constantly in a folded-forward position. You added hours hunched over computers and phones that pulled your shoulders and arms forward.
These lifestyle constraints have compromised your flexibility, strength, balance, and movement patterns. Your body is still trying to become an efficient running machine--but is using parts that don't all work like they are supposed to. The experts agree: No amount of form cues, trying to land on a different part of your foot, or new shoes will enable you to run the way you were born to run without addressing the underlying issue of how you've carried your body the last several years.
Experts also agree: there are no secrets that will instantly transform how you run. Regaining your natural running form requires integrating stretches, exercises, drills, and new posture and movement patterns into your training and lifestyle. You won't be alone in adopting these activities. The gracefully flowing runners at the front of the pack work on their mechanics every day--it is what gives them their beautiful strides, which you can have as well.
Here's the good news: Restoring your best stride will come naturally once you've corrected the imbalances created by a modern, mostly-sedentary lifestyle. It's not about changing your stride to match a one-size-fits-all ideal. In fact, trying to make changes without correcting your mechanics usually ends up making things worse, as many have found out. You need to restore your full range of motion, then break out of habitual ruts to allow your body to once again find your optimal, personalized stride.
In Your Best Stride, I describe in more detail what I found in my search for common ground regarding running form and present the steps that can help every runner restore his or her most comfortable and efficient running pattern. I've also included ideas on how to integrate the necessary work into daily life to ensure it gets done despite busy schedules--even 5 to 10 minutes a day can make a big difference over time. And I've added advice on the role of shoes and how to choose them.
I hope Your Best Stride will help you enjoy your running more as you run easier, farther, faster, and with fewer injuries.