It’s not unusual for coaches of beginner runners to disregard form in lieu of total emphasis on building endurance. I believe the opposite is the far better, more effective route, [Read more…]
Let’s assume you regularly do the 5-Point Running Form Check explained in that blog post. That’s great, but if you discover that your form isn’t perfect – and whose form is perfect – then you may be wondering if there is a way to target different elements of your form to improve because, of course, the goal is to run with good form all the time, even when you’re not concentrating on it.
Well, that’s the whole idea of running drills. As a rule, they exaggerate some movement. I encourage you to check out Mojo for Running Podcast Episode #90: Running Drills.
Benefits of Running Form Drills
- It strengthens the necessary muscles to make that movement easier and more natural.
- It trains the body in that motion/movement.
- It gives you a chance to mentally focus on that movement pattern.
A quick YouTube search will reveal, easily, 30 different running drills. So, any time you want to add to your repertoire, that’s a good place to go. Sometimes different coaches will have different names for the same drill, but you’ll get the idea. I have my favorites, and I’ve made up a few of my own that have really been successful with my runners over the years.
Running Form Drills
- Streetlight form check drill: Find a street with street lights, and use them to determine running segments. For the first mile of your run, stop at every street light and do a head to toe form check. Then run in place for ten steps, focusing on perfect form, before resuming running.
- Airborne drill: We’ve all played with helium-filled balloons. Run as if your body is a small helium balloon, and you want to keep your weight to ever come to rest on a foot when it’s on the ground. You only touch the ground briefly, just to keep your bodyweight in the air. Concentrate on avoiding sinking into your steps. This visualization will help you to be light on your feet.
- Beauty and the beast drill: Run five steps, heavily, loudly. Then run ten steps soundlessly. Repeat several times.
- Isolated arm drill: Without moving your legs, pump your arms as if running. Do this to a 180 beat per minute cadence. Pull your arms back from the elbow. So, you’re only pumping them back and letting each arm swing naturally, forward, as the opposite arm pumps back. Your legs will do what your arms do when you run, but it’s difficult to focus on your arms and legs at the same time. This drill allows you to focus on your arms.
Give those a try and when you get tired of those, just go to YouTube and you’ll find an endless supply to always keep your running form training fresh and fun.
How often do you think about your form when you’re running? How often do you do a running form check?
Well, I understand that. Running becomes so comfortable, that we just do it. It becomes as natural as walking, and how often to we think about our running form? Running form has major consequences, though; so, we should do our best to focus on it for at least a few moments every time we run and maybe even to devote a whole workout to it every week or so. It’s a particularly good focus for a recovery run.
Here is a handy checklist. It breaks down form into just five points, making it quick to do a self check.
5-Point Head to Toe Running Form Checklist:
- Hold your head high as if there was a string attached to the top, keep chin back, and look ahead.
- Relax your shoulders, keeping them low and back, opening up your chest, with arms swinging freely.
- Hold arms in a 90-degree angle, pulling back from the elbow, then allowing them to swing forward, making sure arms swing only backwards and forwards, not sideways, never letting them cross the midline of chest.
- Hands should be in loose, relaxed fits with thumb on top.
- Lean forward very slightly from the ankles but not bending at the waist.
That’s it! Simple and quick, but oh so important! Check out Mojo for Running Podcast Episode #26, Running Form.
Do you cross-train? If you don’t, you’re missing out. Check out Podcast 108: Cross-Training Basics for more on this topic.
I’ve got eight great reasons why every runner should cross-train:
- More fun. Seriously, cross training adds variety. Consider that any exercise beside running could be considered cross training. How about roller-blading, swimming, stand up paddle boarding, cycling, soccer, elliptical? Yes! You get the idea. Running is great. It’s our favorite sport, but variety is the spice of life, and spending some time doing other forms of exercise is a nice change even for me.
- Other forms of exercise strengthen different muscles while giving running muscles more rest. Exercises such as running and biking, because they’re not load bearing, provide an opportunity for more aerobic conditioning with much less risk of injury. In this way they allow you to increase your training and improve your running fitness.
- Builds different functional movement patterns; some, such as cycling (or spinning), will have a great impact on improving your running form. For this reason, I recommend biking to all runners.
- Enables you to work around less than optimal weather conditions. Swimming and biking, for example, are more bearable in summer’s hottest months. And training on an elliptical or working out at the gym is possible even in the worst weather.
- Creates opportunities for family involvement. Cross training can include the whole family. Vigorous hikes can be a family adventure. Snorkeling, especially with fins, is an excellent leg workout. Those fins help improve flexibility in your ankles. If you have kids, then they probably have jump ropes. Get in the habit of jumping rope with them every day. We used to have competitions to see who could jump the most times without missing. And how about hoola hoops? Do you remember those? Did you know there are adult hula hoops, now? Yep. They’re bigger around. You can actually make them out of tubing that you buy at the home improvement store. I used to have a dozen of them, and I’d have my runners hula hoop for one minute between running repetitions. If you have kids of elementary age, they will love the hoops or jumping rope. Biking, too, can be a family activity. Look at cross training as a way to sneak in more exercise time while also being with the family.
- Some forms of exercise will greatly improve your power, and greater power means less ground time with each running step. I’m talking about plyometric exercises. These are jumping exercises. Depending on your current fitness level, you may need to start with just hopping across a room before moving to hopping up on a box. Then move up to box jumps. Start with a small, low box, and build up to a higher box later. This is intense and inappropriate for anyone who is not already fit, but it will have a great impact on your running if you are up to it. Take it slow and easy and don’t overdo, though. Most gyms will have different sizes of boxes for this purpose.
- Buy yourself an agility ladder agility ladder. These look like a rope ladder, except instead of ropes they’re made of heavy duty nylon straps. You can buy these online for around $20. You don’t climb them. You stretch them out on the ground and run through them stepping in and out of each section in different patterns. This is harder than it sounds and will really get your heart rate up. These have been used by running coaches as part of running workouts for years. Greater agility will certainly improve your running form, help to prevent injuries, and reduce ground contact time when you run, resulting in faster running. Every agility ladder will come with suggestions of different agility exercises, plus you can find plenty of You Tube videos with examples, but you don’t even have to buy an agility ladder. It’s easy to actually draw an agility ladder on the driveway with chalk. This is another activity that the kids will love doing right alongside of you. Be prepared, though. They may be much better at it.
- Reduces injuries by strengthening muscles in ways they’re not strengthened by running, creating better balance of strength. Muscle imbalances are a major contributor to injuries. So, a wide variety of other exercises will be a hedge against this problem by not only strengthening other muscles, but also using them through a greater range of motion.
Now, if you’re still not convinced to get out there and cross-train, here is one more reason that’s bigger than any of those above:
If you’ve been running long, then you’ve probably already done most of the things people do to get faster – which is what most people want to do. Why not do a little less running and a little more cross-training? You might be surprised with a shiny new PR in your next race.
Most people do speed work and work on running form to get faster and to limit injuries, but they don’t realize that improved leg turnover is the most efficient way to get faster, and it will also have an impressive impact on form. [Read more…]
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Improving your running form will mean avoiding injury and running more comfortably, two worthwhile pursuits for any runner, and there is no better time to master it than at the very beginning of your running career when you’re only running a few steps at a time. In this podcast, I explain correct form in the first of two episodes on this topic.
Do you ever listen while you run? No, I don’t mean listen to music or conversation or podcasts. Do you listen for the sound of your feet hitting the ground? Try it. If your feet make a loud pounding noise, that means you’re hitting the ground with more force than necessary, and there is room for improvement. [Read more…]