Hello and welcome back to Form February! This is the fourth and final post of this series. It’s also the first post of our new Running Coaches’ Corner linkup. I hope you’ve gleaned some useful information to take with you on the run so far and I hope to see you back here next week, too.
As a recap, so far we’ve talked about good running form in general, cadence and how increasing your steps per minute could help to correct form flaws, and finally how muscle imbalances often lead to injury.
Today I want to give you a few really simple ways to work on your form. If you’re deep in training for a spring race you might not want to add these workouts in depending on your training schedule. If you have any questions about these workouts — when to do them or how to incorporate them into your training — I’m happy to discuss it with you.
Let’s get into it, shall we?
Hill repeats are used in training for various reasons. For our purposes, we’re going to focus on form instead of speed, strength, or power. Before beginning this workout, a few things to keep in mind:
Treat the hill as you would treat flat ground. Just because you’re running up a hill doesn’t mean you need to power into it any more than you would a flat portion of your route.
Lean at the ankles if it’s necessary to lean, and don’t bend at the waist. When you bend at the waist, you lose a lot of power in your hips and glutes. If you were standing on a flat surface, you wouldn’t bend at your waist to run forward because that would be highly inefficient. No reason to do it going uphill either.
Don’t run the hill with maximum effort. 10K pace or slower is fine.
Walk down the hill. Since we are focusing on form and not anything else, it’s important to walk back down the hill.
Now that we’ve got some ground rules covered, here’s the workout:
Find a decently graded hill, about 10-15%, with enough hill to run up for about 60-90 seconds. Run up the hill, really focusing on your form. Can you feel your hips and glutes working? Are you swinging your arms appropriately? Are you landing mid or forefoot instead of heel striking? If you answered yes to those questions, you’re doing it right.
Once you’ve run for 60-90 seconds, stop and walk back down the hill. Repeat this 8-10 times.
You should feel tired but not completely drained like you would with speed-based hill repeats. You can do these hill repeats up to once a week.
I joke with my running buddies and clients that “we eat hills for breakfast,” but it’s true. We do. Running hills, even if you’re not doing hill repeats, is phenomenal work. I could go on all day long about how great hills are for runners of all abilities, ages, and speeds.
Every runner should be doing form drills but not every runner does form drills. Let’s change that. You can do these drills anywhere — you don’t have to go to the track. Both of these workouts should be done as either a warm-up or a cool-down, but if you’re only focusing on form for the day, you can incorporate them into a general form workout.
High knees are a super simple drill to complete and the benefits are immeasurable. By doing the high knees drill, you’ll increase the range of motion of your hips as well as stimulate their movement which will help improve those pesky muscle imbalances we talked about last week.
How to do high knees:
To accomplish high knees, the best way to think of it is to think of yourself marching. March in place and exaggerate the knee lift so your thighs are parallel to the ground. Now, take that in a forward motion and “run” while bringing up those knees. You should take off and land on the balls of your feet. Do this for approximately 20-30 meters, take a rest, and repeat two more times. Note: make sure you have a tall, stable posture and that you’re not swinging your arms across the midline of your body. This is a tough drill but really beneficial for hips and glutes.
Butt kicks work the hamstrings, which are a common area of injury for many runners. When you do butt kicks, leg turnover increases which is great for form in general (as we’ve discussed before).
How to do butt kicks:
Standing straight and tall, bring the heel of your foot up to the corresponding butt cheek (for lack of a better term). Do not let your arms cross the midline of your body. When you take off and land, you’ll do so on the balls of your feet. Do this for approximately 20-30 meters, take a rest, and repeat two more times. Note: make sure you have a tall, stable posture. The goal isn’t to run as fast as you can, but to get in as many butt kicks as you can. Really focus on your form.
This is one of the
easiest hardest most fun workouts. It’s so simple, too. Get to the track, pick a lane, and sprint for 100 meters. Repeat this 6-8 times.
Things to notice while doing sprint repeats:
Arm positioning. Make sure your arms do not cross the midline of your body. Keep them at your sides in a forward pumping motion. Think of swinging on a swing. You don’t pump your legs every which way, right? You’d fly all over the place on the swing. Very inefficient. Why do the same with your arms while running?
Foot strike. You should be landing mid or forefoot. If you’re landing on your heels, you are over-striding. Go back to this post to refresh your memory on how to alleviate over-striding issues.
Trunk rotation. If you’re using your arms for forward momentum, you should have very little trunk rotation.
You can do any of these workouts up to once a week. I don’t recommend doing them on different days of the same week, however. Choose one area to work on per week, and stick with that workout. You may find yourself sore after doing any of these exercises and if you are, you need to give yourself adequate time to rest and repair those muscle fibers. If you want to combine these workouts into one day, that is perfectly reasonable. If you need help figuring out how or when to fit these in to your schedule, please ask.
There are a lot of other ways to practice and reinforce good running form. These are just some of the easiest ways to get moving. A good coach can help you navigate any form-related issues and can suggest additional drills and exercises if you need them.
I hope you learned something new with my Form February series. I look forward to talking to you more about running, nutrition, and coaching in general starting next week.
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What’s one thing you’ve learned from Form February?
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