To Improve Form, Listen to Your Body—Literally

Relaxed, efficient form makes a rhythmically pleasing sound.

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Relaxed, efficient form makes a rhythmically pleasing sound.

Listening to your body is a good policy. It will tell you when to push and when to back off. If you get really good at listening to your body, you’ll catch incipient injuries when they are mere whispers, before they grow into insistent whines or screams. But listening to your body—literally, not just figuratively—will help you develop a relaxed and efficient form, no matter what your sport.

In the water, a good swimmer makes a rhythmic, satisfying thunk as her relaxed arm hits the water. The kick, whether a 2-, 4-, or 6-beat kick, churns the water without making a frantic splashing sound. Some good swimmers have a syncopated rhythm, others lock in time. Spend some time with your eyes closed on deck at a pool with lap swimming and have a listen—the faster, smoother, more efficient swimmers will make a more pleasing noise than the slower, rougher, less economical thrashers.

If you ride your bike on an indoor trainer, listen to the sound of the trainer fan. Is it choppy as you push down in the pedal stroke? Or does it purr a sweet, consistent whirrrrrrrr? Make it smooth by engaging the muscles more fully.

On the run, are you a heavy stepper? Do small animals run off in fear as they hear you approach? Aim for a lighter, quicker footstrike, and see how that affects your form. Is your cadence lento, a slow, deliberate plod, or allegro, quick and nimble? Do your feet hit the ground in regular time, or is there a hesitation on one side? If so, its cause is likely an imbalance — in leg length, perhaps, but more likely in muscle recruitment. Is there a noise as you swing your arms, and if so, why? You might hear a hitch in your arm swing as a slapping of arm against torso.

Finally, listen to your breath. Is it regular, or gasping? Regardless of your pace, a full breath will always be the best choice. See how your breath rides the rhythm of your footsteps. Is it synched two to two, one to one, four to four? Or on an odd count? Any of these is fine; you’re aiming for smoothness and regularity. As you grow more rhythmically pleasing, you’ll be on your way to developing a relaxed and efficient form.

On your next run, leave the MP3 player at home and listen instead to your body.


About The Author:

Endurance sports coach Sage Rountree is author of books including The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery and The Runner’s Guide to Yoga. Sage writes on sports for Yoga Journal and on yoga for publications including Runner’s World and USA Triathlon Life. Find her on Twitter at @sagetree.

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