Very few runners think of form when running. Form is the last thing I think about when I run. However, form is what makes running easier or more difficult. Once upon a time, I focused on improving my running form. I found it very difficult. Basically, I mainly focused on landing on the balls of my feet, keeping my body facing forward, and swinging my arms with as little motion as possible. This helped me conserve energy, which was very practical when I was training for the marathon.
When I first started running races, I noticed that my arms ached. I found it ironic that my arms would hurt while running. So, I started lifting weights to increase my upper body strength and that improved my arm motion while running. My favorite exercise was swinging dumbbells in the same motion as my arm movement while running. I started out with light weights until I could swing thirty pounds or so on each arm, I don’t remember the exact weight. Whenever I tired during a race, I would visualize how difficult it was to swing my arms swinging the weights and my running would become easier.
As far as shifting my foot strike from my heel to my forefoot, I can only do it when I focus on my foot strike. I tried when I was younger, but I always reverted to my natural form. When I feel fatigue while running, my body seems to go into some sort of protective mode that causes me to run more efficiently. If I try to focus on my running form too much, I feel as if I will not finish my run. When I’m tired and I don’t feel like running another step, I focus on lifting my knees a little higher. That seems to help, but I can only do it for a half-mile or so. But it is a refreshing respite.
I have heard of runners taking classes to improve there running form. I would never take a class like that, because I never really entirely listened to my coaches’ advice. I would accept what seemed appealing to me and reject the rest. As far as developing form, I think all those high-mileage weeks developed my form more than all my other efforts to improve it. My body naturally developed an efficient form that preserved energy and protected me from injuries.
I started out by focusing on form and improving it, but now, I don’t worry about form at all and worry more about getting from point A to point B. After all, finishing is more important than how I got there.