Back to the Beginning; Form Change Update

Firstly, let me just say this has been an incredibly slow process I learned from the UVA Speed Clinic as things are actually starting to move in the right direction! But I learned a lot and you can see the difference in my strides below and In my races now.

Here was how my experience went.

Upon leaving the facility, I dived straight into making the changes, committing myself to the program; doing the exercises almost every day, and thinking about it during my runs. I will show you the changes I have made, and the outcomes I have noticed so far, but first, a comparison of my progress:

A race in Fall 2012, you can see I am over striding a lot! Notice how far out in front my foot is, and the straight line from my hip to my heel…there is no way my foot is going to make it back under my hips before it hits the ground


This was from the last 800m of the  10 mile tempo I did just before I took my 5 days off. Still out in front a little, but MUCH better, and after 9.5 miles my form was breaking down! My ankle is at least closer to being under my knee

Running Form

Now when I say I was thinking about it during my runs, that was an understatement. Within a few weeks I was doing it the entire run, “squeezing” my glutes for up to two hours at a time, thinking about tucking my hips under me, like a dog with its tail between its legs. By the end of each run, I was exhausted. Absolutely spent. Not in my legs or lungs, just my entire body was just tired.

However, as I became stronger, I started to overdo it, to the point where my hamstring attachment point was starting to get sore again. I realized just a few days ago that I do not need to “squeeze”, but merely think about it.

That is the problem with us as runners, our stubbornness takes over, and we refuse to back down to whatever it is that is making us weak; why you hear of runners who injure another part of their body while cross training.

Strength Coach

I also am working with my strength coach, Drew Watts, twice a week. Drew is VERY strict with me when it comes to form. It does not matter if I am doing a squat, or even lying on the ground, Drew is making me extremely aware about how the movements I make, in training and just in life, could be affecting my running. In fact, he yelled at me (in a nice way :P) for standing up with my knees pointing towards one another the other day, something I would NEVER have thought about before.

He has truly taken me back to basics, and half the exercises I thought were easy, require total concentration to complete. I was doing them all wrong.

As a perfectionist, that was a tough pill to swallow, it still is. I am so used to taking up something new, and being good at it, or at least able to give it a reasonable attempt on the first few tries, but often now I find myself struggling to complete even a few reps with good form. Just goes to show the importance of quality over quantity.


Another change that Drew has incorporated is to reduce my reps, and increase the intensity. For the first time in a long time, I am sore after my workouts with him, but most exercises we only do 6-8 reps at a time. Again this was a tough pill to swallow, as I was definitely guilty of being one of those people who thought more reps and lighter weight was better.

However, I can feel myself getting stronger, we are progressing in the right direction, and I know that I will be stronger than I ever have been as I continue to work with Drew. If you are in the Lexington area, make sure you go to Drew for your strength and conditioning!


This one was the biggest shocker for me. Max recommended that I come out of my orthotics as quickly as possible (but in a gradual way). I quickly found that running without them was more comfortable than running with them, and they are now gathering dust until I can bring myself to throw them away (they costed $500!).

The other surprising thing was that I was told I could wear any running shoes as I had such good foot control. Thankfully my Saucony rep, Dale, was willing to help out, and sent me a nice little package of shoes to try out.

I had been hearing all about the Saucony Triumph ISO, and how great they are, but I did not even consider them before, as I did not think they would work with my orthotics. Free of the restriction, I gave them a try, and fell in love. They have become my favorite running shoes, and I would recommend them!

Note: honestly considering removing this photo as my foot is pointed in…..sorry Drew 🙂

I also started using the Saucony Ride, which I love, and this gives me a nice range of shoes to do my training in. Especially as both the Triumph and Ride are a little more heavy duty than the Kinvara for the pounding on the roads. Now I just have to decide what I will race in; suddenly the Kinvara don’t feel comfortable anymore….

What has changed?

I talked to Max a few days ago, and he was very impressed with how far I have come in just over a month. Here are some of the biggest changes I have noticed:

I can actually squeeze my glutes! Believe it or not, before I could not…..unless I needed to pee, but that is not the right set of muscles you need for running. Now I can squeeze them, AND they are getting stronger each day. Your glutes are incredibly important for running, and I believe this will make a huge difference to my efficiency

My stride length is 20cm shorter than before!! This absolutely blew me away, and although it can be tough to get your head around, it means that I am no longer over striding, and over time, my push off will become more powerful, and I will be able to cover more ground in the air.

Although I felt like I was shuffling a lot for the first….well, until a few days ago actually, now it feels natural, and Drew said I look like I am gliding! Thats always nice to hear 🙂


My core is stronger, but not in the sense of doing planks for 6 minutes way, but in a using my entire trunk to stabilize way. I honestly think if my body has any chance of ever developing a 6 pack, it will be in these next few months, but I am gonna let things happen; Be Brave! Be Strong, Be YOU right? Maybe I just do not have the genetics for that, we will see 🙂

I have struggled a little with pace, all those changes I made meant that I could not run very fast, as it required so much concentration and energy, but again, the theme here is quality, not quantity. We wanted to make sure I get it right, and then the speed will follow along after.

As some of you saw, I also finished up at Drayer Physical Therapy, they really laid the foundation with my strengthening, so without them, I do not think I would have progressed so far so quickly.


Now I have had some time to reflect, would I recommend the UVA Speed Clinic? 100% YES! I honestly believe this is going to make a HUGE difference for me. It was the right choice, and I can already see some changes in me that I know will make me a better runner.

I am far from where I want to be, I have a long way to go, but I vow to enjoy the journey, enjoy the little accomplishments along the way, and stand on that start line in London, knowing that I am stronger than I have ever been before.

If you want to learn more about why you should consider a full body gait analysis, listen to my podcast with sports performance coach, Matt Phillips. You will learn a lot, and it will explain why it is so important to do this at any level, its not just for elites. You don’t have to go to a really serious place like I did (although I would definitely recommend), but Matt explains what you do need to look for, and what changes you can make to your form without risking injury.

Oh, and speaking of podcasts, today my podcast went live with Unbroken (and Seabiscuit) author, Laura Hillenbrand, what an honor that was to interview her! You can check it out here 🙂

Okay, this has been a long post, apologies, but I have a feeling those people who are really interested in this will enjoy reading, and want the detail I went into.

Thank you for supporting me on my journey. I will keep you posted 🙂

Have you ever had a sudden change in which shoes you like to run in? Do you lift heavy weights with less reps, or lighter weights with more reps?

running form

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  • OMG we have so much in common!! I mean, other then the fact that you’re practically an Olympian, I’ll just set that aside for a moment. BUT, I have the same issue with my left glute only (not sure why?) and could barely squeeze it. How is this possible? We are master compensators!! Luckily I’m not over striding but I am a heel striker which I noticed in your photos, you are too. Did the coaches say anything about that?? Just curious. My coach advised me not to worry about it too much and not try to change my stride…
    It makes me feel so much better knowing I’m not the only one out there incessantly thinking about form while I’m running. It is truly exhausting!!!

    • Allie–I’m not Tina (far from it) but I think it has been determined that it’s not heel vs. mid foot, but rather whether or not you are getting your foot under your center of gravity (i.e.: not over striding). Tina?

      • Exactly Amanda! Yes Allie, make sure you check out that podcast I talked about above….he explains it 🙂 Overstriding is the part you want to avoid, and that is when your foot is way out in front of your center of gravity. Heel striking is not necessarily bad! You have it right on Amanda!

      • I take you and Tina’s advice with equal trust. I’m sure this explanation is also why CRS told me not to worry about it! Thanks Amanda…

  • Sarah at Runner Under Pressure
    January 28, 2015 6:05 am

    Great progress! I’m doing a similar project this spring; after two left leg surgeries, I have some serious weakness and compensation and finally (at 31) decided to deal with it. It is slow, hard work and results in great pictures like the one currently on my Instagram where I am using all of my brain cells to single leg squat! Here’s hoping for strong, fast 2015s!

  • This is so interesting, thank you for sharing so much here! It’s clear you’ve been working hard, you’re trying to change things that are really hard to change. It will definitely pay off and I can’t wait to see the difference it makes. I love the Triumphs too, that’s what I rotate with my Kinvaras 🙂

  • You’ve come such a long way! All that work is and will continue to pay off! Great job Tina! I’m excited to follow along as your form and running continues to improve:)

  • I laugh when I think of how I used to run–supinating and wiggling all over the place, heel striking like crazy. Over the years I have worked hard on my own to correct it, but it wasn’t until I went to PT that I started to get more control over my limbs and things again! Glute activation is my biggest problem. And apparently my calf at the moment, though I’ve no clue why?

  • Heather @fitncookies
    January 28, 2015 7:24 am

    You have come so far! I loved that you explained it all to us, and are doing it while running without putting as much effort into it. Crazy that at one point you needed orthopedics but now you don’t. That’s pretty awesome (and I love the new shoes!). I know you are going to be amazing at London with all of these tips!

  • yay for glute squeeze! that means they are actually “firing”! that’s a good thing, and harder than it sounds. LOL! great progress tina

  • I know that I can not squeeze my glutes at all, I really need to work on my booty and that’s probably a reason I have a lot of the issues that I do! Great progress!!

  • So awesome that you are seeing positive results and you can squeeze your glutes….LOL! It’s truly amazing how simple changes can make such a big difference. And I love being sore like that…Have a fabulous day friend! XOXO

  • A strength coach- so cool, I need one of those! I’ve been learning that I do some strength moves inefficiently as well, and I’m sure there are more imbalances with my stride that I should be aware of too. How exciting to be making so much progress in a month!

  • Tina–I really admire your patience with this process. The vast majority of us could use an overhaul like this but don’t have the patience to take the steps backward pace wise, that you did. It takes a long-term view to get where you are going and I admire you for doing it. Smart moves and they will pay off big time in the coming years as you tear it up out there. Can’t wait to watch you perform!

  • By sharing your story I have learned so much. After taking several pictures for my blog, I noticed how horrible my form is, It’s got me thinking out on my runs, and as you say, maybe thinking too much. You have given me so much to think about, and as I go into my run this morning, your words will be ringing in my head. As always, thank you for an educational post.

  • So much interesting stuff here! Wow look at you with those big weights-impressive!! So looking at your pics-are you a heel striker? When i did a gait analysis they told me I need to change my foot strike. That’s when I started getting more injuries Hmm. Thoughts? Yay for glute squeezes

  • You would appreciate the form and tiny movements required to get the position/exercise correct in Pure Barre. The tucking and low tail-bone thing for proper form took me a minute to get used to but I swear since doing Pure Barre, I find my form in everything I do much better. And I am more conscious of it too.

  • I’m laughing at Allie’s comment – she took the words out of my mouth! I’m scheduled for another full running assessment soon. In the meantime I’ve been wondering how do I fire my glutes while I run? I’ve been trying to squeeze the whole time too! It’s exhausting. From my previous assessment, I knew that I was an overstrider and a heel striker. I’ve worked hard on the overstriding so hopefully it shows up.

  • Michele Rosen
    January 28, 2015 9:53 am

    Drew sounds like an awesome coach! From the photos you can really see the change in stride. The first one looks exactly how I used to run. I agree with Amanda about the heel striking, I seem to mix heel and midfoot based on hills/incline but keeping my stride quick and short feels better regardless of footstrike. Love hearing about your progress, this is great info for all runners.

  • Fascinating post! Thanks for sharing the nitty gritty that is involved to get better. It is very interesting.
    I feel like you are going to come out of this so strong, injury free and even faster! So exciting.

  • Martina Di Marco
    January 28, 2015 1:13 pm

    So glad to hear things are moving in the right direction for you!

    I meant to tell you the following for a while and I believe this is the right post to do so: during my two weeks off back in December, I made a point to get to my next marathon (April 26th, same day as yours!) HEALTHY and STRONG. So I bought myself a pair of 10-pound dumbbells, printed out your secrets to success exercises, and picked 5 exercises for my legs and 5 exercises for my arms. I’ve been doing them for 4 weeks/twice per week now and I can already notice a huge difference! The first week was tough… I was so sore and even my runs were slower because my arms and legs were in pain! But I quickly got used to them and I already feel much stronger. My left hip flexor, which has been bothering non-stop me since last August, suddenly feels like brand new! No more pain, no more weird feelings… I can only imagine how I will feel 3 months for now. Plus, it’s so helpful to be able to check your YouTube channel to figure out how to properly do each exercise. So… THANK YOU, TINA! SO SO MUCH! Not only you are an inspiration, but you also truly know how to help runners to improve. So happy I found your blog!

    PS: I wear the Kinvara 5 for tempo runs and speed workouts and the Ride for easy runs and long runs/marathons. Although I love my Kinvaras more, I cannot use them too often because they do not provide me with enough support, while the Ride do an excellent job at that. Hope you’ll have a nice experience with the Ride!

  • I find all of this stuff fascinating! There is so much fine tuning in your running routine I love learning all about it. I literally put on a pair of shoes and take off around the neighborhood. I like hearing about the way your feet strike and your gait. Like I said I find all of this fascinating even though I probably only really understand about 2% of it. All I know is I’m a neutral runner 🙂

  • I loved this follow-up to your form change. The pictures are a great way to really see the difference. Interesting about squeezing/not squeezing!!!

  • It is so awesome you had the chance to go to that clinic and it is really exciting to hear that you are able to make changes. It is so hard to change the way we move naturally. I’m really excited to see how it continues to go and how it impacts your running overall. Thanks for sharing it with us! xo

  • It is so fascinating what we learn every day about the science of running. It really is a “science”!
    Awesome post. Love learning more about strength training and form. I wore orthotics for such a long time and now just have Super Feet in my running shoes. I think I should get a full body gait analysis after this injury heals.
    You are going to put all of this together and rock it in London! I am so excited to check out the Unbroken podcast!

  • Carly Pizzani
    January 28, 2015 5:03 pm

    This is all so exciting!! What a huge difference between those photos and a 20cm improvement in your stride is phenomenal. Your strength coach sounds amazing and I’m happy he has you lifting heavier – it will make such a difference to you. Thanks for sharing and I’m looking forward to listening to your podcasts too!

  • Wow, you have been working hard and look at that progress! That’s a long way to come in such a short amount of time! I hope that you’re very proud of yourself for everything you’ve accomplished. And the Triumph ISO is amazing! Makes me so sad I need a light stability shoe now. 🙁 At least the Guide 8 is awesome. 🙂

  • So I’m just starting out with my running, but I probably spend about 95% of my run thinking about my form. So when people say that running is an awesome time to just zone out and relax? Not so much for me at this point. It’s all “head up, shoulders back, torso straight, swing arms, feet… omg your feet! What are your feet doing!” And so on and so forth lol. But I guess it’ll all start to feel more natural the longer we keep at it. And it’s so awesome to hear that you’re seeing so much progress with the work you’re putting in 🙂

  • I know my form is bad! I’ve been told it’s all upper body, that I swing my shoulders, too much side-to-side motion. I think I used to overstride- I’ve looked at pictures and noticed this, but not as much lately. I love reading about the strength work you do and also how much time you’ve invested to fix your form and stay injury free- especially as an elite where something being slightly ‘off’, and you’re off, even by a few seconds per mile, can cost you a race.

    I do a class called BodyPump 2x a week for strength training, it’s high-rep, low weight, but I love the music and love it. The squats and lunges have helped big time with running on hills.

  • Christine @ Love, Life, Surf
    January 30, 2015 10:34 am

    OK, this post has been sitting open in my browser all week but I wanted to find the time to sit and read it and not skim it 🙂 Such a great post and I’m so excited for you in all the progress that you’re making in such a short amount of time. I can only imagine how tiring and exhausting it is but you’re retraining your body and hopefully it will all feel effortless soon if not already! Hooray for glutes firing!

  • Tina, I’m going through the same exact thing! I pulled out of the Houston Marathon the day before the race due to a high hamstring strain/tendonitis. I took 2 weeks off and am working with a PT to completely change my form. It’s super tough to think about it while running so at his recommendation I’m doing a walk/run to keep my mind focused. I feel like I am starting from scratch! Thanks for being so positive and for sharing. After reading the comments I’m going to check out your secrets to success.

  • Great post! I also run in Saucony (always did) and just love them. I was recently diagnosed that my right pelvic is much higher than my left and was told to wear a heel lift. Not really sure, if this is really needed. It feels wrong.

  • I just started following your blog a few weeks ago and realizing you were working to change your form made me search for a post regarding it (thanks for posting about it!) I had become injured about 18 months ago and was a heel striker with a stride that looked pretty similar to yours. With a lot of PT and learning more about running form and biomechanics, I’ve been actively working to become more educated and change my form! I’ve made pretty big strides, but still land just a bit ahead of my center of gravity — but it’s nice to read somebody else’s POV who is changing their form as well to something similar. I can only think about it in my head so often! Sometimes reading somebody else’s description and seeing their pictures can make the little things that have yet to click – click. But I totally agree — the beginning of changing form makes your body oh so tired. Two mile runs literally made me feel like I ran my first half marathon again at the start!

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