02/15/2013 10:26 am ET Updated Apr 17, 2013

Running Form: Simplified (Part 1)

Even a Caveman Could Do It

What if, along the lines of the Geico commercial, running could be so simple that even "a caveman could do it?" Of course, cavemen ran -- they had to. Yet, today, probably because running has devolved from efficient, survival-oriented locomotion into recreation and sport, it has become laden with excess. It's no longer simple, and the forest is lost for the trees.

It doesn't help that all the wild and wooly dogma of natural running gurus, and coaches, sports scientists, biomechanists, and physical therapists regarding running form echo those proverbial blind men describing the whole of an elephant from each of its disparate ends. They're all as wrong as they are right. Yes, elephants have trunks, and ears, legs, bellies, and tails, but we know it's only by stepping beyond a limited reference point that lets us appreciate the whole beast. So, it's only by gaining perspective that we can understand how, regardless of their methods, runners all run the same way -- by harnessing gravity. This is the elephant in the room that until now has been roundly ignored.

Our modern sophistication blinds us to the fact that humans developed within Earth's gravitational field, and therefore we are ideally suited to redirect this universal force as well as any other animal. And, we've been doing it successfully without outside support for millions of years. While the underpinnings are pretty complicated, nature's already done the math. All we've got to do is get out of our own way, stop trying to run... and run.

Consider This

In running there are variables and invariables. An invariable is common to all runners. A variable is something that could be added, but doesn't have to be. For instance, shoes are variables. Even feet are variables. Legs, however, are invariables. You must have them to run. Of course, you can keep your feet, and your shoes, and as you step through a sample running stride with me, you'll learn to recognize the parts of your own running form you will want to keep or release.

But why would changing or refining running technique be important at all? Can't we just run? Well, if there could be such a thing as correct running form, wouldn't it just make good sense that by using it we may be able to run farther, run faster, and run with less chance of injury?

So, consider that correct running form asks only that runners eliminate the variables, and reinforce the invariables. That is running form, simplified.

In as many weeks, this five-part blog post series on "Running Form: Simplified" will carefully sift through the particulars of running so that -- like our most ancient forebears or our youngest children -- ultimately, we can just run.

Next, we hit the ground running ("Running Form: Simplified-- Part 2").

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