Here’s a question for you… How would you feel if a stranger stopped you in the street to offer you some unsolicited advice on your running?
I ask because I saw two runners on my way to work this morning, both with significant flaws in their running style that were certainly leading to discomfort if not eventually injury. One was overstriding massively, heel striking horribly and wincing with every stride. I just wanted to stop him and explain the biomechanics of landing over his foot and lifting his heel to avoid all that pain and loss of energy transfer. The second was a girl who was rolling off her shoes with every step. Her right foot especially looked like she was snapping her ankle with each contact and a pair of supportive shoes would have made all the difference to her running.
Now I’m no certified expert (yet) but I do have 5 years of accumulated experience and knowledge. I’ve read, studied, learned and practised running so I know that I was right on these two occasions at least. I also had, thanks to traffic lights, the ideal opportunity to speak to both of these runners but decided to keep my mouth shut and watch with horror as they continued on their way.
So, what’s the verdict? Assuming the advice is given in a friendly and supportive way is it acceptable to approach strangers and give them the benefit of your knowledge or would you be mortally offended if that happened to you?
Personally, I think that people should feel comfortable to run however they like without fear that others are judging their form. If it’s not hurting them and they’re happy with how they run, then it isn’t something that needs to be addressed.
There are lots of professional athletes with questionable form, yet this clearly doesn’t hinder their speed. Just because something isn’t ‘textbook’, doesn’t mean it’s incorrect. Everyone is different and what works for some will not work for others.
I know if someone stopped me whilst I was training just to tell me I was ‘doing bad jogging’, I’d tell them where to shove it ;-).
Rest assured I’d never actually use the phrase “bad jogging”! :o)
I absolutely agree that perfect form is almost non-existent, even among the pros. But the pros rarely have such poor form that it is an injury concern, and that was what I was worried about with these two this morning. My actual fear was that if they continued running the way they were they would eventually be in real pain and this may put them off running in the future, and all because they didn’t get a friendly bit of advice in the early days that could have saved them the injury. Not everyone has a running club/coaches/Twitter/Runner’s World or anyone else helping them get these things right so I wondered whether to intervene.
I didn’t, so I just hope I see them running with poor form for years to come so I don’t feel guilty!
I might be offended a bit at first, but if it helped me get more out of my run with less pain, I would definitely be open to criticism. I wish someone had told me before that I run on my heels too much because I only learned about it after I completed a full summer of physical therapy. Besides, if the person is not only running for health reasons, but more for the sport, I would think they’d be open to all new ways to make their run better.
It would certainly be constructive criticism, I’d only ever offer advice if i could see something obvious and easily corrected. Nice to know you’d be open to someone approaching you trying to help you be a better runner though. :o)
It’s a difficult one. I think I’d feel a bit embarrassed and offended if someone stopped me and told me I was running badly. It’s different if you’re at a track session or at a running club where there’s a supportive or coaching environment but in the street, I’d probably not be particularly happy. Even if it’s meant well, I think it would be a difficult one to phrase properly without sounding superior or accusatory.
It would definitely need to be approached in the right way, that’s for sure!
Difficult one! I use to get this same feeling in the gym before I took up running. I saw so many people using the machines and weights in the wrong way, that not only would it have not achieved any results, but most likely caused injuries. But I’m a true Brit and I said absolutely nothing to them. Would I like someone to come and offer me so-called ‘friendly advice’? I don’t think so. But it would depend on who it was and my perception of their own credibility/expertise.
I used to be a gym instructor, way back in the early years! Over the years I qualified as a coach or instructor in quite a few different sports, never to a very high standard and all have now lapsed but I was definitely interested in giving people feedback and helping them improve…maybe this urge to approach fellow runners is a sign that I should continue my qualifications in running!
I believe it’s a don’t do it unless you’re asked and even then think carefully about giving advice. When I get asked about stuff I simply say ‘seek professional advice’ and if pressed I explain that ‘what works for me and is right for me, is really only for me’ Sadly, I’d be offended if a fellow, unknown runner came up to me telling me my form could be improved, but this could well just be an issue with me but it certainly raises an interesting point.
I absolutely agree that every runner is individual and you can’t carbon copy technique and expect it to work…however the two examples I saw were both indicative of new runners likely to injure themselves if they don’t change rather than Ultraboy who could benefit from a slight improvement in heel lift! I’d hate to see them limping to work next week and never running again…
I can see your very valid point but for me the injury/recovery/discovery process is part of the journey. I’m still learning about form, impact, injury, etc even now and despite all my injury woes I wouldn’t have listened to anyone – maybe that’s why I lack any form of running success
I think you would offend in a big way with this approach and potentially even put the runners off for life. You do not know you are a bad runner unless you get an injury or until you starting getting pain. A lot of it is down to experience and learning as you run to work out what does and does not cause pain and what works for you. As a novice runner I am still finding my running feet (So to speak) and identifying what works and what does not work, and occassionaly tend to return to bad habits I picked up when I first started running. If you approached me this way several months ago, I would of died of embarrassment and would probably of jogged on (badly).