Before You Switch Run Technique: 10 Things to Know

Updated: February 5, 2024

1. You can’t keep your regular weekly mileage.

When first switching run techniques, this is a hard one for endurance athletes to understand. Our athletes often say (with a significant degree of exasperation, mind you!) in the beginning, “Wait, I can’t do my weekend long run?” Yes. That’s true. Let’s take a comparison with lifting weights. When you learn to squat for the first time, is it intelligent for you to load a bunch of weight on the barbell and just go? Of course not because squatting is a skill, one that can always be worked on and refined over time. Running is also a skill. Running, like all human movements, has a defined starting and ending point. The awareness of the in between is the difficult part in running. Immediately ramping up volume will not allow you to keep your form. This will lead to misunderstandings regarding the skill and possibly injury. If you’re seriously treating running as a skill, you have to back down your weekly mileage tremendously until you get it right.

2. You’ll be able to switch right into a minimal shoe.

The minimal movement gets a bad rap for this one. Folks think that because they’ve been working on their technique or that running in a minimal shoe will instinctively allow you to improve your form and run “naturally” they should wear them all the time. This is not the case at all, and actually quite dangerous when you are first learning proper run technique. Buy a pair of minimal shoes, but only add them in once a week at first. Many runners I work with have significantly underdeveloped foot strength and lower limbs. It takes time to build this up. If you do this intelligently, you can avoid painful setbacks.

3. You will learn and perfect run technique overnight.

I have never seen this happen. Often times, I compare Olympic lifting to running, yet running gets much less respect from people. There must be a focused four to six weeks of just technique work coupled with smart intervals to develop technique before adding volume. I’ve never trained or met anyone yet who has been able to overcome poor run technique habits in less than four weeks.

4. Change your technique eight weeks out from a marathon.

Here’s my response: “You came to me too late, stop by after your marathon, and we’ll get down to business.” The worst timing of news that I can give a runner (whether they listen or not) is about 6–8 weeks out from their prepaid marathon and telling them they shouldn’t run. I still to this day have not met anyone who can harness their ego in this situation and say “no” to their race. The runner may be dealing with ITB pain and even feel so beat up that they’re tired non-stop, but they still decide to run their race. I get it, you’re signed up, you’re going to do the race, but at what cost? What I’m offering you is a lifetime of running injury free and to never plateau in your training. Now, can the race wait?

5. You’ll never revert,

Ever catch yourself forgetting to pack your lunch in the morning? Of course, you have. It’s no different for running in that we have to constantly train the system every time we step out the door, much alike the habits we practice in our everyday life. In my FIRE Endurance classes, the first half of class is devoted to mobility, warm up and about twenty minutes of running drills.

6. It will be easy to change technique

Hell no! You’ve most likely been running with questionable technique your entire life (well at least since you put shoes on), how can you think for a second that it will be easy to change that? Over eighty percent of recreational marathon runners get injured over the course of a year, as well as heel strike (a common run technique deviation). This is the highest injury rate of ANY sport based off the percentage of people participating. Be patient with change.

7. You can do it without consistent video analysis

Initial and weekly video review is essential to any runner’s skill development. When you switch your technique, it’s a big time awareness issue, meaning you have to feel what good posture is like and how to fall and pull correctly. Without feedback from a frame by frame video, you’ll never be able to visually see if you’re doing it right versus wrong. Video is usually a big eye-opener for athletes and certainly helps visual learners correct their movement pattern.

8. Without any coaching.

Just like video review, having a Coach instructing you is critical. Where I work, we lead specialized training classes for endurance athletes, where we are able to adjust the athlete’s technique in real time. Immediate feedback for a runner is usually the best way to make big changes. They have to “feel” what is correct and where their deviations lie. Kinesthetic awareness is the key factor in maintaining solid running form. During our endurance group classes, we’re constantly videotaping in the work set intervals and letting our athletes know before it’s too late. The rule is always keep going until pace or form deteriorates.

9. You Shouldn’t Feel Worthless only Doing 50m Repeats

This is the endurance athlete instinct that “more is better” and “if I don’t GET IN a certain amount of miles, my body and training is doomed.” Check your goals on this one runner and maybe look into some solid nutrition philosophy. Runners are known to run so they can “burn” a certain number of calories and stay in shape. If you’re up-to-date on your research, you know that that’s not how the body actually works. Not all calories are created equal, and this idea that you need to create a deficit of calories through consistent aerobic training is false. At the end of the day, what happens when you keep running through bad run technique? It’s much harder to “burn calories” when you are injured. And studies show that anaerobic work can significantly increase aerobic capacity.

10. Keep it Simple Superstar (K.I.S.S.)

Please KISS the crap out of run technique when you first start. When I lead our seminars, this is one of the key mindsets I try to instill by the end of the weekend. You’re going to be going through a big change, so accept it. Don’t let The Process overcome you or get in your head and overwhelm you. When you’re adjusting technique or a Coach is cueing you on new form, focus on just one thing that clicks for you! You’re not going to get it all at once, but I promise you that if you care enough about how you move and keep it very simple, you’ll learn to run better in no time!

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