Kara Goucher's 6 Tips for Beginning Runners


By: , – Kara Goucher, Olympic distance runner
  :  26 comments   :  17,363 Views

Even if you've never run before, or have taken a long break, you can get into a routine without injury or agony. Olympic distance runner Kara Goucher shares 6 posture tips that will help you run more smoothly and efficiently. From Kara Goucher’s Running for Women: From First Steps to Marathons.
  1. Stay upright. To ensure you’re running tall and not slumped forward (a common mistake), visualize yourself as a puppet dangling beneath a string that is attached to the top of your head. Your head, torso, and legs should all align directly below that string as you run.
  2. Face forward. Keep your head level, eyes looking forward, and keep your face and jaw relaxed, with mouth slightly open. (You still sometimes hear that breathing through the nose is the best way. Not true! Simply breathe as you normally do.)
  3. Keep shoulders down, with arms relaxed. Don’t let your shoulders “bunch up” around your ears. Keep arms bent at the elbows at around 90 degrees, and allow your hands and wrists to stay supple and slightly floppy. Allow your forearms to come across your stomach when they come forward, as opposed to straight forward and straight back.
  4. Lean slightly. It’s best for your pelvis and butt to feel “tucked in” and forward, to guard against swayback. Keep your torso upright, with just a slight forward lean to help propel you forward.
  5. Land gently, leave quickly. Visualize yourself being light on your feet (hot coals, ouch!) and lifting each foot quickly after each step. After a while, you won’t need to think about it. Too much time on the ground with each foot will slow you down and make you a sluggish runner.
  6. Think short, efficient steps. Sprinting is all about taking long, powerful steps. With distance running, short and efficient is best, as it allows you to conserve energy. This also helps you land on the balls of your feet with each step, which is generally more efficient than landing too far back on your heels or too far forward on your toes.
Will you use these running tips? What "mistakes" do you make when it comes to proper form when running?

Kara Goucher, author of Kara Goucher’s Running for Women: From First Steps to Marathons (Copyright © 2011 by Kara Goucher), is the World Championship bronze medalist for the 10K and a top U.S. marathoner. A member of the Nike Oregon Project, improving standards for distance running, she lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, professional runner Adam Goucher and son, Colt. 

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  • 26
    I sorta stumbled onto the light steps thing and really felt like a runner once I started running that way. I like the tips! Thanks!! - 8/26/2011   7:52:59 AM
    Great tips! Thanks! - 7/16/2011   5:35:06 PM
  • 24
    Thank you! I just started running and I will definitely use these tips! I never thought about the "short, efficient" steps but will keep that in mind from here on out. I just finally ran a mile for the first time in years this week (without stopping to walk) and it felt great! Trying to work my way up to be able to compete in a 5k in September. Thank you for the tips! - 6/26/2011   4:07:13 PM
  • 23
    I'm able to shorten my stride with the mantra "pitter patter" - that's what my daughter's cross country coach taught them to do. - 6/24/2011   11:54:13 AM
    Great Blog..Thanks for Sharing. - 6/24/2011   4:16:14 AM
    Thanks - 6/23/2011   9:16:40 PM
  • 20
    Motivating and encouraging. Thanks! - 6/23/2011   4:54:22 PM
  • 19
    Great tips ... covered all the things I'm doing wrong. (Smile!) - 6/23/2011   1:43:57 PM
  • 18
    These are all great tips. I've noticed that when I run on the treadmill, I get really bad posture because I'm looking down towards the computer too much to check my speed, remaining time etc. I've been hanging my towel over the computer so I wouldn't look and run straighter.

    Thanks to the article I now know what else to do to ensure that I keep a better posture. - 6/23/2011   10:25:45 AM
  • 17
    "Heel-ball-toe" is natural only if you're wearing heavily soled shoes, because those types of shoes forces you to run that way. Try running a few feet while barefoot, or in socks inside the house. You'll see that landing on the balls of your feet (the meaty part) naturally occurs when you're not wearing clunkier shoes. Or try jumping in place - you wouldn't land on your heels, right? Ouch! Landing on the balls of the feet cushions you and makes the legs work to stabilize you, resulting in a lighter, quicker step like Kara advises. Landing on the heels is jarring and may eventually lead to joint pain in the knees and hips. - 6/23/2011   9:34:12 AM
  • 16
    thanks for the tips. I'm part of a 5k boot camp, first time ever at almost 55.
    The trainer said my form was fine and I try to remember to keep my head up though I end up looking down and ahead. The running light will be new for me. At this point I'm not running but jogging.

    I also like GetFit2Live's suggestion of a mantra 'strong, smooth, easy' - beats my wondering if I can finish the 440 running! - 6/23/2011   9:27:11 AM
  • 15
    thanks for the tips. I'm part of a 5k boot camp, first time ever at almost 55.
    The trainer said my form was fine and I try to remember to keep my head up though I end up looking down and ahead. The running light will be new for me. At this point I'm not running but jogging.

    I also like GetFit2Live's suggestion of a mantra 'strong, smooth, easy' - beats my wondering if I can finish the 440 running! - 6/23/2011   9:27:00 AM
  • 14
    Great Tips!! I make all these mistakes and seem to constantly remind myself....chin level with the ground...shoulders down and back, tuck your tail and run! - 6/23/2011   8:20:04 AM
  • HOLLY404040
    I use the running tips for my walking. - 6/23/2011   8:06:28 AM
  • 12
    I don't get the whole "balls of the feet" concept. I've heard it before, been hearing it for years, starting with my dad, who ran before running was fashionable. But watching him run, and now running myself, it always looked and felt like heel to ball to toe felt natural. Trying to land on the balls of my feet feels like a ballet dancer looks walking across a dance floor. I just don't get it. What am I missing? - 6/23/2011   5:44:31 AM
  • 11
    Great advice. Thanks. - 6/23/2011   4:56:36 AM
  • 10
    Interesting. - 6/23/2011   4:05:09 AM
  • 9
    It is a whole body slight lean. Great pointers since most people think they know how to run, like I did. Make no changes though during whole run if you already are running, always make changes gradually or you may hurt yourself, again like I did. - 6/22/2011   11:32:03 PM
  • 8
    Kara Goucher is my running idol...She is the center of my inspirational collage.
    - 6/22/2011   11:05:21 PM
  • 7
    Thanks for the tips. I am participating a American Heart Association 5k in September. I need to get in shape. These will help. - 6/22/2011   9:45:36 PM
  • 6
    I am a beginner, but I am up 10 minutes of constant run. I have been reading the runners magazine and it is helping alot. My biggest problem is watching my feet while running. I have been paying closer attention to this though. These tips really helped alot. It won't be long before I will be running my first 5k. - 6/22/2011   8:51:05 PM
    I saw Kara Goucher live in person. I heard #4 to many times. I don't ready follow it. I use quick turnovers. And when I get to the finsh line I widen my gate. I broke some records this way. I'm a Class C runner! Since, I broke the 3 hour tape @ CIM 27th! - 6/22/2011   7:57:34 PM
  • 4
    I'm a little confused about tip 6: how are you supposed to run on the balls of your feet? I always thought it was heel-ball-toe, rolling back to front as you go... - 6/22/2011   7:55:24 PM
  • 3
    The one I got confused on was number 4. How does one lean slightly if one is holding upright? I know it's probably something silly...but, I missed it. LOL

    Great tips though. Will try them tomorrow on Week 2 of C25 - 6/22/2011   7:38:26 PM
  • 2
    Great tips! I have a 'mantra' that I recite silently when I'm running: 'strong, smooth, easy.' When I do that, I immediately start relaxing and run lighter, if that makes sense. - 6/22/2011   6:40:31 PM
  • 1
    Great tips!! Thanks for sharing! - 6/22/2011   6:04:47 PM

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