Peculiar Cues: Running

Last year I did a 1/2 Ironman with Mark on a Saturday morning. A friend of ours challenged us to do it with him, so we packed up some sugars and hopped in the pool early that morning.

The swim and bike was fine, but man… we started to fall apart on the run. We ran the St. George Marathon earlier that year, so this honestly came by surprise to us. The muscle stiffness and cramping that ensued on that Ironman trial later became a call-to-arms to focus again on the basics. I learned that my running mechanics were a large contributor to a poor performance that Saturday morning.

At RxFIT, we spend so much time making sure we have vertical shins in the split jerk, a hollow-body on the handstand, and externally-rotated shoulders on the snatch… but we don’t talk much about running. This is an oversight on my end.

But running in general, especially in the crossfit world, is one of those movements that people will skip working out all together if they see it programmed. For most people, they would rather do burpees than run 800-meters! This needs to end.

My hope is that with a few of these tips, running will eventually become effortless and enjoyable like it has become for me. Here are 5 peculiar cues that every athlete, especially every RxFIT athlete, should know:

1. Eyes Forward and Down

Similar to a back squat or deadlift, you want your eyes to be out on the ground 15-20 meters in front of you; not straightforward nor directly at the ground. The actual distance doesn’t matter as long as the neck remains an extension of a neutral spine. This will help you stay braced through the core and avoid stiffness in long runs (like it did for me).

2. Shoulders Relaxed

Keep the shoulders down and back. Think of your form when you’re stringing together double-unders; you want a relaxed upper-body.

3. Hands Don’t Crossover

Thumbs should be up and moving forward and back. The reason I say “thumbs-up” is because running then becomes awkward if you’re in the habit of your hands crossing over. This isn’t to say that the thumbs should be sticking literally up, but rather that the thumb knuckle is pointed to the sky.

This then prevents the fault of your hands crossing over the center of your body; which results in a loss of energy (wasted effort). See the video below for a better demonstration.

4. Extend the Hip

All athletic movement begins with the hip flexed and ends with the hip extended. Use the hips! Think about jumping, punching, throwing, sprinting, rowing, and even swimming… the hip needs to flex and extend in order to generate more power! Running moderate-to-long distances should not be any different.

This is the most common fault I see: athletes keeping the hip flexed throughout their stride. Remember, the hip needs to extend in order to run faster.

5. Foot Lands Under Hip

Similar to a handstand, we need to be careful not to overstride. Overstriding causes the heel to touch the ground first (“heel-strike”) and slows you down. Attempt to land somewhere between the middle and ball of the foot every stride, never allowing your toes to be out in front of your shoulders.

Here’s a video further demonstrating these five cues:


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