I recently read the book “Runner’s World Your Best Stride: How to Optimize Your Natural Running Form to Run Easier, Farther, and Faster–With Fewer Injuries” by Jonathan Beverly. The title is a mouthful, but the book is a BEAST!
The whole reason I wanted to read this book is because I had been having several running issues. For whatever reason my gait had changed over the years and I had gone from someone with a nice, fluid natural gait to one where I seriously looked like I was hobbling. My right leg would hyperextend instead of naturally bending when I landed.
Before I even bought the book, I began working on my gait and trying to not hyperextend my right leg. It was a very long, difficult process that was extremely frustrating and I even gave up once but I knew I needed to try again so this past spring and summer I began working on it again. You can read more about that here if you’d like.
So back to the book. Why do I say it’s a beast? It’s so crammed-full of information, it’s almost too much to absorb. I had to read through it and not do any of the million exercises in it then read through it a second time and start doing some of the exercises for it to sink in. This book would be overwhelming to the brand new runner, I would think. I’ve been running for let’s just say a long time, and it was almost overwhelming for me.
A big part of the book is devoted to discussing foot stride. With many people like physical therapists and running coaches to back him up, Beverly states that it really doesn’t matter where your foot lands on the ground. As runners, we’ve heard that our foot should strike mid-foot as opposed to landing on our toes or heels. Apparently it really doesn’t matter where our foot lands on the ground. Foot strike is variable and changes in different situations. Beverly goes on to say that what is more important than foot strike is what happens with your leg motion and body mass when you touch the ground. We should focus more on having a quick, fluid turnover.
There’s also a huge emphasis on the hips and proper posture. Beverly states we first need to play with balance, to see what it feels like when our hips are rotated in all directions. When we run our hips shouldn’t be twisting from side to side but rather the hips should be stacked under the torso. Since most of us have jobs where we sit for long periods of time, our hips have become tight as a result. There are several stretches in the book to work on not only tight hip flexors but also glutes. While sitting causes tight hips, it also causes weak glutes. When we run, our hips and glutes ideally work together.
Another big piece of the posture puzzle is arm swing. Many people probably underestimate the importance of our arms for running. Beverly devotes an entire chapter to arms and effective arm swing. There are of course multiple stretches for the chest, back, and shoulders and a section on arm swing exercises.
Probably not surprising is that there is another chapter entirely on the foot. Beverly talks about the barefoot running movement and has multiple sections throughout the book about running shoes. Suffice to say the author feels that cushy shoes with tons of padding aren’t doing our feet any favors in the long run. While he doesn’t say to throw out your running shoes and run barefoot, Beverly does say to run in the least shoe possible. There are multiple foot and ankle stretches and exercises designed to strengthen our feet and ankles.
Stride and cadence are discussed with many experts weighing in that a faster cadence doesn’t always make a runner faster. According to the author, one problem with increasing your step rate that can result is your form suffers. Hip flexors get over-worked and arm swing is more in the front of the body rather than the backward motion it should be. Basically Beverly says that some runners may be able to increase their cadence and thereby become faster runners, but only after they’ve addressed posture, hip flexibility, glute strength, and upper body mobility.
I think the book can be summed up from a section in the preface entitled “A Process, Not a Problem.” I’ll paraphrase here. The process of having good form isn’t something you’re born being able to do, nor a matter of good or bad movement like where your foot lands. Running well requires an effective range of motion from our limbs which are restricted from daily sitting. In the US where most people drive to work, drive to run errands, and even drive to a trail head before going on a run, our hips have become tight and our glutes weak. Without working on our posture, hips, shoulders, and overstriding, we’ll never achieve good running form.
You can buy the book on Amazon here. I don’t recommend just borrowing this book from your local public library. There’s just too much information here to be able to read through it in a week or two. You’ll also want to keep it to have all of the stretches and exercises available. Obviously there’s no way anyone could incorporate all of the stretches into their weekly schedule. I suggest choosing some of the ones where you need the most work and focus on those and every so often going back and doing some of the ones you haven’t done in a while.
What do you all think? Does this sound like a book that would help or interest you?