A really important process to becoming a more efficient runner is to focus on things that seem to be awkward at first but become better with practice. A big part of this is finding out what your biomechanical faults are by having an evaluation done by physical therapist or running coach. I do this when I see clients in the the clinic, and also on video during ChiRunning workshops. Once we know what our tendencies are, then we must work to gently bring your consciousness to adopt the new patterns that are more efficient.
However, this is much easier said than done. I like to say to people that they have become very efficient at running inefficiently. Our bodies find ways to shift and go around our mechanical weaknesses and stiffness in order to achieve the goal of our brain, which is to bring us forward in the path of least resistance.
The key to making a change is to be very gentle on yourself, not hard on yourself like so many adult learners are. When a baby falls down, he or she does not throw in the towel right away like adults do. Therefore, we must learn to take each step as we are and to embrace the concept of gradual progress instead of expecting things to change overnight. Most of us have the goal of trying to run for very long distances and want to run for a very long time into much older ages. This means he must take a panoramic view of our lives as runners and realize that this initial investment in time and energy and money will pay off amazingly in good health and longevity with less injuries in the future.
A key of focus is obviously clarity: we must be absolutely clear on what we are trying to correct, which means it 1st we can only focus on one thing at a time. One focus I have runners work on frequently is to lean forward from the ankles is good alignment. I want my runners to focus on this right as I say this to them as they are running, but there's a catch: I only want them to focus on it for about a minute at a time during the run then forget about it for about a minute. The great thing to do is to set a timer for 1 min. or even 30 seconds and have your focus go in and out of that particular cues (ex lean forward). This way, your mind is brought back into focus each time you go in and out of it and you could feel the differences between leaning forward and not leaning forward.
As we could with one focus, we can add on another one, much like we get the backbeat of the music and then can join in with another instrument. Our minds are so complex and able to do so many things at once it is amazing! However, when we get our conscious mind locked up into thinking all the time, we are locking up our much more powerful non-conscious mind’s ability to do it all at once.
Eventually, after working on specific drills related to running with good form, all the complexities of hard focus starts to blend into a beautiful symphony of movement and you actually start to “get it”. And then it’s gone. But with reps and reps it starts to come back a little more naturally. The key is to be persistent.