Q+A: Do I bob up and down too much when I run?

Our experts answer real-life questions

Posted: 9 September 2000
by Bud Baldaro

Q I’m very new to running, but I love it. It makes me feel great. However I’m worried that my running style is all wrong. I seem to bob up and down when I run with more upward than forward momentum. I’ve been told to think ‘form’, but what is good running form?

A It’s wonderful that running makes you feel so good. At the moment this is more important than worrying unduly about your running style. As they say, accentuate the positive!

Having said that, there are some simple steps you can take to improve your style, or ‘form’. The first thing to do is to try and feel as relaxed and economical as you can when you run. If you worry too much about your style you’ll probably begin to feel inhibited and tense, and that will just make things worse.

It’s quite difficult to drastically change your running style, but here are a few ways to tweak your form for the better.

Firstly, keep your forearms at 90 degrees to your upper arms, and roughly parallel to the ground. Keep them close to your body so that your hands and forearms almost clip the top of your shorts as they swing. Don’t let your hands cross in front of your belly button because it will twist your torso. Rest your thumbs lightly on your index fingers with your palms facing each other. Pretend you’re holding a crisp in each hand and that you have to run without breaking them.

Run tall, with your head upright and your hips tucked directly under your torso. And try not to lean too far forward. Also, don’t overstride. You want to use a short light stride (long striding often means that each foot stays on the ground too long and acts as a brake which slows you down).

If you’re in a club, see if any of the coaches are well -versed in the use of plyometrics and bounding. These simple exercises will help improve your power, strength, and speed, and if you persist with them, they should also help to modify your running style.

Finally try relaxed hill running. Running up a hill (it doesn’t have to be steep) can help improve your knee lift and the use of your arms.

But most of all, just remember that first point. Running makes you feel good!

Bud Baldaro, RW contributing editor and elite athlete coach

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Discuss this article

Hi there,

I am new to running and have been training for the London Triathlon for nearly a year now (from a pretty unfit point), I feel happy with my swimming, the cycling I have enjoyed since I started training, but the running is causing me a problem. I used to run cross country when I was at school and was quite good, but I have lost it and don't seem to be able to run without my trustee running partner. That is mostly because we chat whilst we run (I read in RW that was a good thing to do)but when I train on my own I cannot seem to keep going. I have focussed on fuel and hydration before and during a run, I have mixed fartlex into my training regime, but I cannot seem to just run! It is very frustrating. Any ideas?
Posted: 22/06/2007 at 10:40

I am looking forward to reading your responses. I thought it was just me.

I love running when I am with someone but on my own I am simply rubbish.

I tried running with my ipod but I ended up going to fast and running about 2 miles before having to give up and walk.

Have you tried an MP3 player?
Posted: 22/06/2007 at 10:44

Are you running too fast when you're on your own? I use a heart rate monitor on my long runs to stop me pushing too hard.
Posted: 22/06/2007 at 11:01

You mention breathing whilst running.

Are you thinking about the breathing?

Think about something and it goes to pot.

Whilst with a running partner you mind is on the chatting as such.

Also MR W point as well.
Posted: 22/06/2007 at 11:07

I do think I am thinking too much about breathing. I wear my HRM and run at the same rate as when I am with my running buddy. I have tried really slowing down but that doesn't help. I don't think I am relaxing. I have tried the IPOD and singing would you believe, but nothing works. Very frustrating. Reckon I need to relax more, but not sure how to.
Posted: 22/06/2007 at 11:10

Just forgot about time/distance and running just go out once in a while and run for fun.

do it last night, f*cking great buzz.
When I checked gmap was very suprised at distance covered in the time......IE very fast!

Just let go, go with the flow
Posted: 22/06/2007 at 13:12

That is probably a good piece of advice. I run in an area that I have measured the distance on my bike, so I know what to expect. Probably just need a change of scenery and see where it takes me. Thanks. What about shin splints any advice on that?
Posted: 22/06/2007 at 13:22

Majority of people when breathing only use top parts of lungs.

try and get yourself into a routine of belly breathing and that should help.

(when breathing in push your stomach out - you take in alot more air)
Posted: 22/06/2007 at 14:17

Sounds like you are bored to me. If you can do it running with a partner you can do it on your own, if anything it'll be easier because you don't have to keep talking! I think it sounds like you doubt yourself and give up. Run a route you run with your partner so you know you can do it and BELIEVE it. is that mad?

Posted: 22/06/2007 at 15:40

I agree with rarog, it does sound like your bored with the route which you cycle as well?

As TT has said, just go out and enjoy the run for the sake of the run. Explore around, don't follow the same tried and tested routes, do something different for a change of scene.

Find new places to go and don't worry about the time or distance, just enjoy it.

This would apply the the cycling as well.

It is good to have some regular benchmark routes that you can go back to to measure your improvement, but I sense that you need more variety.

Posted: 22/06/2007 at 16:13

Hi jm
have you tried rhythmic breathing - ie coordinating breathing with stride so that you inhale and exhale over an odd number of steps. On a relaxed run you run a 3:2 ratio so you breathe in for 3 steps and exhale for 2 steps. There is a scientific explanation if you are interested otherwise just give it a go. It may take a while to get used to but it is worth a try.
Posted: 22/06/2007 at 18:32

I felt like that too - could run with a buddy but useless on my own, had to walk and run instead as I'm still a real beginner. Then one day I did my usual route by myself and just kept going all the way round! The problem is I expect to do that every time now........
Posted: 24/06/2007 at 10:21

I have just got back from running club and feel very deflated. I gave up after 2 miles and we were only running 6! I seem to be getting worse. The people who were slower than me are quickly overtaking me now. I think I may be thinking too much aboout my breathing and panicking. Any suggestions on how to get over this? I have a half marathon in April and am determined to do it.
Posted: 16/01/2009 at 21:07

perhaps you are overthinking it?

If there are people there who are slower than you, start running with them in the first instance so that you are not going off too fast,  relax and dont 'think' your breathing,  taking a breath is a very natural thing to do and it just so happens when you run it may be a little bit quicker... but not that much or you are going too fast,  try a chat with the person you are running with and keep the pace comfortable.

The thing is if you miss a breath ... there will (hopefully) be another one along in a few seconds  

Posted: 16/01/2009 at 21:14

I  know you are right. If I think about my breathing it goes wapsy! If I talk to someone it's ok but then I feel I'm not working hard enough. I also don't sleep well or eat well and am sure that contributes to the whole thing. I am very hard on myself and hate failing. I am  looking into hypnotherapy. Will try anything if it helps.
Posted: 16/01/2009 at 21:34

you need to keep your runs at a conversational pace,  it doesnt have to be lung busting all the time!
Posted: 16/01/2009 at 21:39

Hi DW74, You are anything but a failure...you must try and focus on something else other than your breathing..I'm asthmatic and when i first started running i was very self conscious of my breathing and used to try to breath quietly if i saw someone coming!!  I quickly realised everyone that runs makes a sound so I just practised fixing my sight on something else and now I don't care how i sound

Also if you're not getting enough sleep and good nutrition,,which you need to refuel your body maybe this is why you are slowing down you can;t run on empty

But please remember you're not a failure..you're still running..I hope you find something that helps you

Posted: 03/09/2009 at 20:33


Thanks for your message. I know my biggets problem is lack of sleep and not eating well (I eat healthiy but not enough). I have arranged to see a PT next week so hopefully he will ba able to kick my a**e into gear!!! I'll let you know.

Thanks again

Posted: 05/09/2009 at 13:32


You're welcome..Hope  PT doesn't kick too hard ..good to hear that you eat healthy though..

Good luck

Posted: 05/09/2009 at 19:51

When I run I don't think about breathing, I just do it!  Come on, it's not rocket science, just breathe!  I'd say you probably need to slow down a tad so you can breathe more easily but apart from that, just do what comes naturally.
Posted: 05/09/2009 at 20:17

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