For the past 8 years, I’ve been coaching high school track and field/cross country athletes. In these 8 years, my coaching and cueing systems have evolved drastically. Cueing an athlete properly is one of the most important tasks for a coach. Give the athlete too much information and it can have a detrimental effect. Give them too little and it may not have an effect at all. Give them the wrong cue and it will be detrimental for sure. So what is the most important running cue? If I could give one running cue to the world, it would be this, RUN TALL!
So what does run tall even mean as a running cue? Running tall means running with your hips tall as opposed to “squatty” and your head over your shoulders. This allows you to strike with your foot under the center of gravity and biomechanically sets you up to be efficient as a runner. If you don’t run tall, you alter the biomechanics which can lead to injuries and not allow you to run as efficiently. Running tall allows your glutes to engage which is one of the most important things for runners. As a result of most of us sitting, the glutes are already chronically weak and compounding that with poor running posture only makes that issue worse.
So how can you apply running tall to your running form? I highly recommend doing some video analysis if you have not already. I shoot video on all my runners and frequently utilize it in the clinic. Seeing how you run can sometimes be surprising! Sometimes we can’t feel our bad habits. Once you are able to see it, it makes it way easier to fix. Practice makes perfect! Work on running tall not only when you run but in all your drills. A habit isn’t formed overnight! Running tall is by far and away the best running cue and will make you a better runner and less prone to injury. Get out there and practice it!
This athlete as a freshman in high school was a terrific runner, 16:42 3-mile, but was one of our worst offenders of not running tall. As you can see in the picture, his shoulder/head are forward and he is squatty in his hips as opposed to being tall.
This same athlete as a sophomore became much better at running tall and dropped his 3 mile PR to 15:40, he still has bad tendencies to not run tall when he becomes fatigued but has vastly improved his running mechanics by simply running tall. In this picture, you can see clear and distinct differences of shoulder and head position along with hip position.