Being a cross-country and track coach for over 8 years, one of the first things I always take notice of in my athletes is their form. Running form and stride is one of the most important things that you can improve upon in order to become a more efficient and successful runner. If you practice bad form, then not only will you exert more energy than is necessary in a workout or race, but you can also injure yourself and develop imbalances.
When I first started running competitively over 10 years ago, I knew nothing about running. I knew nothing about form or stride. I was at the mercy of my coaches who worked hard in helping me take notice of the things I was doing wrong. I was critiqued every day at practice, which at times became quite frustrating because I couldn’t figure out what I was or wasn’t doing right, but my coaches eventually succeeded in improving my running in many great ways…and it started with helping to clean up my form and stride.
Now I have the opportunity to pass on the many tools I have acquired over the years to my athletes, and to equip them with the knowledge that will inevitably make them better runners.
During practice I have my team do a warm up that includes running dynamic drills and different mobilities. A lot of times when the girls are first learning these exercises they look and feel very awkward. The basic mechanical moves are meant to develop the muscle memory that will be called upon during a workout and race…especially when you become tired and your form is more likely to be compromised.
Some of the names of these drills are: heel and toe walks (to help strengthen shins and prevent shin splints), right and left fast leg skip, A-skip, B-skip, alternate fast leg skip, side hurdle hops, lead leg plows, scorpions, and hurdle seat changes. All of these drills help the runners to experience what their stride should feel like every time their foot strikes.
Another drill that is very important in developing good form is one called “arm swings”. This drill helps runners to relax their shoulders, open up their chest, and swing their arms back and forth beside their torso instead of across their chest. You can try this exercise by taking 2 5lb plates (one in each hand) and stepping your lead leg forward in a running stance. You then roll back and relax your shoulders, hold your hands in a 90 degree angle and swing the plates back and forth beside your torso as you lean forward. I have my team do 50 swings for each leg forward for 2-3 rounds. This will definitely help you to develop arm strength and muscle memory for what your arms should do in a run.
Good form doesn’t happen over night…though of course there are those few who are just naturally beautiful runners…. but if you continue to practice and listen to those who are trying to help you improve, then you most definitely will. The improvements I have made over the years in my running and racing is due largely to the coaching I had and the hard work I put in under their guidance. Thankfully all that coaching, all that critiquing, and all that frustration has not been in vain…I have been able to enjoy the growth and successes that many of my athletes have accomplished over the years. That has proven to be the greatest pay off of all my vigorous training. Happy running to you!
* 100 pushups
Every time you have to take a rest you must run 400 meters.
* 50 wallballs (20/16#)
Every time you have to take a rest you must run 200 meters.
* 25 thrusters (95/65#)
Every time you have to take a rest you must run 100 meters.