Run tall! How runners use process cues to be their own best coach
Even after 40 years of running, I spend time in every training session paying attention to my form. I do quick scans for tension — working on being relaxed through my neck and shoulders and arms, tall in my trunk, and quick and smooth in the way my legs are moving. And I am thinking about my feet tapping lightly on the ground as I run. I coach myself with process cues: short descriptive words or phrases that remind me to focus on things I can control.
If you can pay attention to being your most efficient self, and doing the best work you can do in that moment, you can also start to re-program negative and fearful thoughts into an empowered way to run and walk. For example, if your mind starts to wander to how tired you are, you can bring it back by reminding yourself of a process cue. This breaks the thought loop and helps you run better. Some of the most effective process cues work to reinforce a tall relaxed posture and good technique that promotes efficiency.
Here are some posture cues you can try out in your next training session or the at Cobble Hill 10k. If you are new to process cues, I suggest you only pick one or two for each session.
The process cues
Run tall: Imagine that a string (like on a Marionette) is attached to the top of your head and is pulling you upward. This will help you maintain an erect, but not tense posture.
Look ahead: Look to where you want to go, this will keep your chin up, and your upper body tall Look ahead to objects or points up the road. Trust your peripheral vision to sense obstacles and avoid looking down. This will help you to run taller and avoid stress on your neck and back.
Quick feet: You want to have a light touch on the ground, with a light impact. Think of your feet tapping, gliding, propelling you forward, with quick and light steps.
Relaxed arms: Have a relaxed and natural feeling to the bend to your arms. Try to avoid too much crossbody swinging. Hands should have no tension.
Relaxed shoulders: Your arms will swing more freely, and you’ll avoid upper back and neck tension.
As the hours count down to the race start, keep breathing, keep smiling (at least inside), and rest your body. Above all, if you are feeling a bit anxious, don’t berate yourself for feeling anxious. Switch your thoughts to these things you can control.
And one final pre-race calming tip for those of you still thinking about nerves: five minutes before the start, when you are waiting nervously with every other nervous and excited runner, take 4-5 full deep slow breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.
See you out there!