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Peloton instructor Susie Chan running

I’m a Peloton Tread Instructor and These Are the Most Common Running Mistakes I See

Taking the time to work on your form will pay off as you get faster and stronger in the process.

By Susie ChanMay 8, 2023

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Peloton Tread and running instructor Susie Chan is no stranger to running mistakes (even pros make them!) But learning from your mistakes is the best way to become a better runner—here’s how.

There are plenty of reasons to love running. Some that are on the top of my list: being able to enjoy the beautiful outdoors while you’re doing it, grabbing a friend (furry or human!) for a mile or two to do it together, and the best perk—you don’t need anything but yourself! I truly believe that anyone can be a runner, but learning how to run properly does take a bit of practice. Proper running form can also help you avoid pesky injuries and make you a stronger runner. 

Here are some of the most common running form mistakes I’ve witnessed (and have been guilty of myself in the beginning) and how to fix them.

Why is Proper Running Form So Important?

Keeping good form during your runs is more efficient—plain and simple. Tweaking your posture or gait will help you to run for longer or faster. Perhaps even both! And while the right form is necessary to prevent minor injuries (or what we like to call niggles in the UK) like runner’s knee, shin splints, tendinitis, or something else, you shouldn’t drastically change your running form overnight. Doing so could lead to injuries, too, keeping you off your feet just as you were starting to really pay attention to them. 

Just remember that we all have different bodies. There may be some form changes that come naturally to you and others that you really have to work at. Fight the urge to change everything at the same time and adapt your form gradually, implementing small switches that you focus on for a week or two at a time before adding new ones. 

The Top Running Form Mistakes (and How to Fix Them)

Ready to rock your future runs? Let’s dig into the most common mistakes even the most experienced runners make, especially if they’re feeling fatigued. 

Hunching Over

This is something I did when I started running and really had to work on. When I got tired, my form would slump, which would put stress on other parts of my body. An easy way to tell if you’re hunching over is to notice if your back hurts while you run. One of the best ways to fix this is to really focus on your cross training. Work in some core and upper body exercises during the week to help you stay up as you increase your mileage. (Find out more about why strength training for runners is so important.)

Standing Straight Up

Yes, I know—I just told you not to hunch and now I’m telling you not to stand straight! I haven’t gone mad, but the details here are important when it comes to running posture. When you hunch, your spine curves, which is why we don’t want to do it. Standing straight up when you run, however, will put tension on your lower back and knees and affect your stride. To keep a straight spine without hunching lean slightly, aiming to shift your hips over your ankles. Doing this will naturally push your chest out, as opposed to leaning your chest first, which pops your butt out so your hips are no longer stacked correctly. This posture will improve your cadence and stride without putting too much strain on your back and legs. 

Looking Down

If you’ve ever watched a little kid for an afternoon, you’ve likely yelled, “Look up!” when you’re walking down the street to avoid having them crash into a telephone pole or a person as they check out their shoes or the flowers in the grass. Give yourself that same mental nudge if you spot yourself looking down during runs. Aside from it possibly causing a pedestrian collision, looking down can create that hunching effect and can make it more difficult to breathe. (After all, breathing while running is difficult enough!) Keep your head high, and your gaze slightly in front of you to help stay in that upright position.

Swinging Arms

It’s easy to do, you’re cruising on a run outdoors or on the Peloton Tread and you’re just feeling the music. Your arms are starting to get in on the party too as they start swinging across your body. Feel the tunes, but keep your arms out of it! Try not to swing them over across your stomach and instead, move them forward and back, staying close to your rib cage. This is easier if you relax your arms (shoulders down) and hold them at a 90-degree angle. Working on this will expend less energy over time, helping you improve your endurance. If you find you really need to work on tidier arm swings, chip away at this by doing a few walks on the Peloton App or Tread first before bringing them into your runs.

Dragging Heels

This is often sometimes referred to as a “lazy heels” and it just means that your heels aren’t getting as high off the ground during your stride as they should be. As a result, you can put strain on your hip flexors and possibly create some IT band trouble over time. That’s why mobility training is so great— it keeps our bodies moving in a variety of ways that can really pay off during runs. A simple fix for this: do a five-minute warm up run before your main run. In that warm up, incorporate heel kicks, to train yourself to pick up your heels in the beginning of your mid-stride (i.e., as your leg moves forward) and get those glutes activated. This is one of my favorite warm up exercises that I almost always do.

The Takeaway

It can be a lot to think about your whole body while you are running along. My top piece of advice is to think about one thing at a time. To help you become a stronger runner, mobility and strength training can really help, in addition to correcting any form errors. Core exercises and single-leg work especially will lend themselves to addressing any weak spots you may have. 

Above all else, keep in mind that our bodies all move differently and even elite runners can have their own little idiosyncrasies with their running. Don’t be too hard on yourself in pursuit of being perfect, because a perfect runner does not exist!

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