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The Considerable Downsides of Altering Your Running Form

Updated: Jan 29

Running is not just a physical activity; it's a symphony of biomechanics that varies from one individual to another. While improving running form is a common aspiration among runners, it's crucial to tread carefully, considering the potential downsides accompanying such changes. In this article, we'll delve into the considerable downsides of altering your running form.

Coach Cory running with good form

Risk of Injury

Perhaps the most significant concern when changing running form is the increased risk of injury. The body becomes accustomed to a specific gait and mechanics over time. Abrupt changes in foot strike, stride length, or posture can place undue stress on muscles, tendons, and joints. This heightened stress may lead to overuse injuries such as shin splints, stress fractures, or tendonitis.

Initial Performance Decline

Changing running form typically comes with a learning curve. During this adjustment period, runners may experience a temporary decline in performance. The body needs time to adapt to the new mechanics, and during this phase, running efficiency may be compromised. This can be frustrating for runners who are used to a certain level of performance and find themselves struggling during the transition.

Overthinking Running Form 

Overthinking occurs when the runner becomes preoccupied with these details to an extent that it negatively affects the overall running experience. Overthinking becomes counterproductive when it interferes with the inherent joy and spontaneity of running. This may result in a rigid running style as the runner tries to adhere strictly to prescribed form guidelines, potentially hindering the natural flow of their stride.

Muscle Fatigue and Soreness

Adopting a new running form often means engaging different muscle groups or using existing muscles in a different way. This can lead to increased muscle fatigue and soreness as the body adapts to the new mechanics. The transition period can be physically demanding, requiring additional recovery time and potentially impacting the runner's overall training routine.

Discomfort and Frustration

The process of altering running form can be uncomfortable and frustrating. Breaking old habits is challenging, and the conscious effort required to maintain the new form can take away from the sheer enjoyment of running. Runners may find themselves overthinking each stride, leading to mental fatigue and a diminished sense of pleasure during their runs.

Overemphasis on Form

While running form is undoubtedly important, an overemphasis on changing it can lead to neglecting other critical aspects of running. Factors such as overall fitness, strength training, and adequate recovery are equally vital for a runner's well-being. A myopic focus on form adjustment may divert attention from these essential components of a comprehensive training plan.

Lack of Individualization

Every runner is unique, with distinct biomechanics and physiological characteristics. What works well for one person may not necessarily be suitable for another. Generic recommendations or attempts to mimic the running form of elite athletes may not take into account individual differences, potentially leading to unproductive or even counterproductive changes.

Mental Strain

Constantly thinking about altering running form can be mentally draining. Running is not just a physical activity; it also involves a significant mental component. The stress associated with maintaining a new form during every run may contribute to mental fatigue, making running feel more like a chore than an enjoyable activity.

Long Adjustment Period

Adjusting to a new running form is a gradual process that requires patience and persistence. It may take weeks or even months before the changes become natural and ingrained in muscle memory. During this adjustment period, runners may experience inconsistencies in performance, leading to frustration and uncertainty about the effectiveness of the changes.

While the desire to improve running form is commendable, it's essential to approach it with caution and awareness of the potential downsides. Runners should consider seeking guidance from a healthcare professional, preferably a physical therapist trained in gait analysis, to ensure that any form adjustments are tailored to their individual biomechanics and goals. Striking a balance between improvement and the preservation of running enjoyment is key to a successful and sustainable running journey.

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