Runners World Articles: Archives - July 2001
Practice Makes Perfect: These simple form drills
will make you a faster, more efficient runner
Okay, you already know that to run faster, you have to...run faster.
Which usually means speedwork, something many runners simply don't
enjoy. But you can also run faster and easier, almost instantly,
by correcting flaws in your running form.
The following five drills can eliminate the most common running-form
problems, and help increase your speed and efficiency. Even better,
you don't need to fit in an additional workout to practice these.
Simply insert any or all of them into your regular runs each week.
1. Run tall. Many runners start to slouch as they tire on
a run, which makes them even less efficient. An upright running
posture promotes optimal lung capacity and stride length. It also
reduces neck, shoulder, and back strain. Therefore, you need to
learn how to ≥pull≤ yourself upright as if your were a puppet on
a string. You can do this drill on every run. First, take a deep
breath, and feel yourself straighten. As you exhale, simply maintain
that upright posture. Your head should be in line with your shoulders,
with your hips directly underneath. With these body parts in alignment,
you'll "run tall" and move down the road as a well-balanced
unit, increasing your running efficiency.
2. Do the Shuffle. Many runners expend too much enegy pushing
up off the ground with excessive toe and knee lift. If you keep
your feet lower to the ground by adding a bit of a shuffle to your
running gait, you'll automatically run more efficiently. This allows
you to concentrate your energy on moving forward, not upward. To
get the hang of shuffling, pick a flat 100-meter stretch along one
of your runs and, while running, concentrate on keeping your feet
very close to the ground. Afterward, jog or walk for 30 to 60 seconds,
then turn around and repeat that same segment three to five times.
For several weeks, do this drill every time you return to that stretch
of road or trail.
3. Use a quick touch. One key to running faster is to reduce
the length of time your feet spend on the ground. Running with a
quick touch will also reduce foot and leg fatigue, and increase
your turnover rate, all while using less energy. As with the shuffle,
scout out a favorite 100-meter stretch during a run and imagine
that you're running on thin ice. As you repeat each 100-meter segment,
practice lifting each foot back in the air almost instantaneously.
Repeat the drill three to five times with 30 to 60 seconds recovery
between. Do this for several weeks, until the new motion becomes
4. Take it in stride. As you tire at the end of a run or
race, you probably begin to overstride, which leads to even greater
fatigue, increased injury risk, and ultimately slower times. Slightly
reducing your stride length at the end of a run or race will allow
you to maintain speed and efficiency. For this drill, jog for a
few minutes to warm up, then run at your normal training pace for
30 seconds. Count how many times your left or right foot touches
the ground. Walk or jog for about a minute, then run another half-minute
segment, increasing your footstrike count by one or two. Repeat
the drill up to six times, increasing your footstrike count by one
or two for each repeat. If you do this once a week, you'll eventually
get used to a quicker, more efficient turnover, and you'll naturally
tend toward it as you tire on your runs.
5. Put it all together. Now it's time to combine the four
above techniques. Spend about 10 minutes during a regular run to
work on various combinations.
For instance, try a couple of 100-meter shuffle drills, and incorporate
the run tall exercise at the same time. Walk or jog for 30 to 60
seconds between repeats. Then try this combo again, but add a quick
touch with each foot. Repeat a few times with recovery periods.
Eventually you'll be able to do all four form drills simultaneously.
With practice, this all-in-one drill will become second nature.
At that point, you'll be a faster, more efficient runner.
The Principles of Fine Form
1. Run tall≤ with an upright body posture
2. Keep your feet close to the ground
3. Touch the ground quickly with each foot
4. Shorten your stride to increase turnover
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