Form: How It Feels Is Most Important

It was an endless process. Run a 100-meter stride, walk back and hear this question repeated over and over. These weren’t the words of some uninformed coach or parent trying to fake their way through coaching, they were spoken by Tom Tellez. And when Tom speaks, there’s a reason for the words.

As an athlete, it took me a while to grasp what coach Tellez was doing. Yes, we were trying to change my running mechanics, but the physics of it all wasn’t what Tellez was truly worried about. He knew what it should look like, and that’s where most of us put the focus. As coaches, we obsess over whether it looks correct. What was the shin angle at ground contact? Where on the foot did we make first contact? How much undulation are we seeing in the hips?

It’s easy to go down this path, make correction after correction until it looks right. What right is can be debated, but it’s how almost all of us approach changes in form. We have a model of what’s right, then try to get the pictures to match up, mimicking the look, with little concern to how they got there. It’s one of the reasons you see coaching cues that are looks based (i.e. lift your knees) shouted at every track meet.