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I love talking to women about running. If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you know running is a new passion of mine in the last two years. After years and YEARS of despising even the thought of running, this love snuck up on me out of nowhere and it is now part of me until God says I can run no longer.

In many conversations, I’ve heard women describe how self-conscious they feel when running. They are worried about what is “jiggling” or they feel like they are plodding along or they wonder if they look like Phoebe running through the park. Please tell me you get this Friends reference…

I totally get these feelings. I’ve felt all of them. And I want to tell you and every woman that IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE WHEN YOU’RE RUNNING. What matters is YOU ARE RUNNING!

I’m going to make you all feel better for a moment. You’ve seen my triumphant photos from races, with hands raised, smiling from ear to ear. What you haven’t seen is the photos taken during those races where I look I will literally fall over and die any second. There are so many of these, but I didn’t purchase all of them because who wants to remember looking that way?! But this captures at least a part of my mid-race look of death…

Running Form Race

And the photos from the finish line of that race? This is one of the better ones. Oh heavens…

 Running Form Finish

I did actually collapse on a volunteer moments after this photo was taken and ended up overheated in the medical tent, but still. We don’t all look gorgeous while running and these pictures are Exhibit A!

That being said, there are a few easy things you can do to be a more physically confident runner. And these things will also help you run stronger, faster, and longer. Trust me. I’ve tried them all.

Running Form

Stand Tall

Running is a full-body workout. Yes, it is very lower body intensive, but what goes on above the waist is very important as well. When you hunch over during a run, you are impeding several functions of the body that could be helping you on your run! As someone with mild asthma, I am very aware of my breathing while running. Improving my upper body posture while running has helped me to manage my breathing much more effectively because I’m giving my lungs room to work! Standing tall also allows your core to be more engaged while you run – yes, running really will help strengthen your abs and a strong core will improve your running!

And have you ever ran in front of a mirror or reflective window? You might want to do it more often to train yourself to stand up straighter. I didn’t really notice how often I was letting my shoulders slump down during a run until the windows at our gym revealed it to me! Now I know what it feels and looks like to be running tall so I can correct it wherever I am. I’m keeping my head up more now, as well! We SHOULD hold our head high as we run! Plus, your mother always told you to stand up straight! Listen to her while running!

Arm Swing

The windows at the gym revealed something else to me: I looked a little ridiculous with the amount of arm-swinging I had going on. And I was also wasting a lot of unnecessary energy moving my arms wildly across my body hoping they would make me fly or something. I’m still working on this one, but when I focus on moving my elbows just from front to back at my side at a 90° angle with my hands lightly clasped, a lot of tension goes away and I can focus more on my stride. And I don’t have to worry I might accidentally smack myself in the face with an errant hand.

Foot Strike

If you feel like you’re plodding along while running, you just might be. During my second half marathon, it was very warm and humid and I was having trouble breathing. I was definitely plodding, even shuffling sometimes and it made the whole process of finishing the race even more grueling. I remember feeling like it was such work to pick up my feet and I forgot how to make my feet work FOR me in this situation.  There are many schools of thought on which part of your foot should strike first, so if you’re really interested, I would suggest reading more about it from Runner’s World or the ladies at Another Mother Runner in their books Run Like a Mother and Train Like a Mother {LOVED them both}.

But here is the important part: you should feel like your feet are helping to propel you forward. I think I tend to land more towards my heel and then roll forward and push off from the ball – a product of years of marching band – but I am wanting to study my strike more this year to see how it could improve all areas of my running. Having a good strike makes you feel more like you are running effortlessly and less like a horse! It also will help you prevent injury.

In focusing on these three things, I have noticed how strong and confident I now feel when running. Even in the midst of horrific speed work or hill repeats, I am reminding myself of the ways my whole body can work together to get me through and even improve!

If you’ve ever felt afraid to run in public, first of all, FORGET THAT because all those cars driving past you on the trail aren’t out there burning mega calories like you are! And then try these tips to show yourself and them that you ARE a confident runner, no matter the speed or distance you’re traveling!

One last note: If you have a running store near by, they are usually very helpful in analyzing your stride and foot strike if you’re having trouble with this or wanting more input on the topic! And they will give you great information on the types of shoes that will work best for your stride/strike/running needs!

How do you feel when you’re running?