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Tom Cruise’s MO: Running from explosions — with near-perfect form. (Photo: Mission: Impossible III/Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection)
It’s a known fact that Tom Cruise always looks amazing. But if you’re a fan of his movies, you also know that the actor looks especially amazing when he’s running. Which he has done in nearly every single film over his three-decade acting career.
And with the release of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol coming up, we’re sure to see even more of Cruise’s exceptional running form. Case in point: At the 30-second mark of the Ghost Protocol trailer (below), Cruise is sprinting away from an explosion (shirtless, no less):
(Image: Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol/Paramount)
Tom Cruise doesn’t only look good while running, though. “He has amazingly good form,” says Alice Holland, doctor of physical therapy, running coach, and director of Stride Strong Physical Therapy in Oregon. By keeping his core tight and running with a quick foot turnover, he’s able to run very efficiently, Holland tells Yahoo Health.
“On film it looks as though he’s expending a lot of energy while running — and he may be, because he’s sprinting — but really it’s quite an efficient run because he’s staying very still,” Holland explains. Inefficient runners flail around more, Holland says — their arms flap out, and they have to expend energy to bring them back, or their heads bob up and down. With Cruise, she says, “There’s no waste of energy; everything goes into every single step.”
Let’s break down the secrets to Tom Cruising step by step, with the help of examples from Mr. Cruise’s best on-screen running moments.
1. Tight core
How fast is Tom Cruise? Fast enough to outrun a sandstorm, apparently. (Image: Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol/Paramount)
The main characteristic of Cruise’s running form is that he keeps his core very tight. “You can see it because there’s not much movement in his pelvic area,” Holland says. “You can tell that his abdominals are contracted the whole time, and I bet if he had his shirt off you’d probably see his delicious abs popping out because he’s really contracting his core.”
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2. Powerful arm swing
Tom Cruise’s run is so iconic that it even became a joke in Courteney Cox’s sitcom Cougar Town. (Image: Cougar Town/ABC)
The way Cruise karate chops the air when he runs is actually a common sprinting technique, Holland explains. “He keeps his hands nice and tight like a slicer to cut the air, which is why you get that karate chop movement.” Four-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson, for example, also sprints with a karate chop-like arm swing.
In the Mission: Impossible movies especially, Cruise also keeps his elbows bent at about 90 degrees, and doesn’t let his arms cross the midline of his body. Those are both keys to a powerful arm swing, says Jennifer Harrison, a USAT Level 2 certified triathlon coach. “Many people cross their arms across their body, or don’t move their arms enough,” which is inefficient, Harrison tells Yahoo Health.
Finally, experts point out that Cruise’s arms swing quickly, which helps his feet move faster as well. “If you move your arms, your legs will follow,” Harrison adds.
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3. Quick foot turnover
Yes, that’s a Bruce Springsteen T-shirt that Tom Cruise is wearing. (Image: Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol/Paramount)
How fast you sprint is a combination of the length of your stride and how quickly your feet turn over, known as your cadence. Cruise runs with a short strike, but a very quick cadence, Holland says. “That makes any runner tense up their core a whole lot more, and it also causes the runner to not pop up and down so much,” she explains.
The opening to Vanilla Sky was one of the most expensive single shots in movie history. Times Square shut down for Tom Cruise to run through it alone. (Image: Vanilla Sky/Paramount Pictures)
When you watch Cruise run, his head doesn’t move up and down very much. Instead of wasting energy on moving vertically, he’s putting all of his energy into propelling himself forward. He’s able to do this because his cadence is high and his core is tight, Holland says.
Not only is this an efficient way of running, Holland says, “Camera and acting-wise this is great because the audience can watch his facial expressions and stay focused on his character, rather than seeing a blur on the television.”
Even covered in full futuristic body armor, Tom Cruise still has good running form. (Image: Edge of Tomorrow/Warner Bros.)
Let’s face it, an explosion in the background makes anyone look cool while running.
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