Improve your running posture using running drills.

Good running posture is vital to running performance for both sprinters and long distance athletes. Every coaching session, I would emphasise to my athletes the importance of adopting good running posture. I would remind them repeatedly to correct their running posture. Running posture could be influenced by individual habits, their anatomical and neuromuscular characteristics. The aims of perfecting the running posture include to improve running economy (efficient utilisation of energy and hence improve in running performance) and to reduce chances of injury. However, making changes to your running posture can be difficult.  Time and consistency are needed to make these transformations permanent.

The initial effort to correct your running form may make running feel more laborious. This is because the neuromuscular adaptation for performing at the new running postures have not taken place. Thus, a reduction of control by the nervous system and more uncoordinated and uneconomical movements. With constant practice, the nervous system can gradually adapt, and ideal running posture will become effective over time and become a part of running habits.

The purpose of running drills are:

1) Develop good running posture habits.

2) Improve strides frequency / legs turnover.

3) Improve stride length.

The Ideal Running Form

1) Head and Eyes

Eyes should not focus upwards or  downwards. This affects the position of the head which can cause strain to the neck muscles. Eyes should be focus 20m to 30m ahead. The head should be in a neutral position.

Key Points:

  • Vision should focus 20m to 30m ahead.
  • The head should be in a neutral position.
  • Avoid unnecessary head movements.

2) Body Alignment

You may have heard of a recommendation to lean the body forward to allow gravity to “pull the body along”. However, running with trunk flexion can strain the lower back and reduce stride length. It is crucial to maintain an upright posture. An upright position can avoid reduction in stride length, stride rate, and to maintain a balanced forward movement. Avoid unnecessary energy expenditure by rotating the upper body excessively or lifting the shoulders which will affect running economy.

Key Points:

  • Keep body upright.
  • Run “tall”.
  • Avoid excessive upper body rotation.

Vision looking downwards, arms are too high.

3) Arm Swing

A common flaw in the arm swing is crossing the body which consumes more energy, hence affects the running economy.  The arms should swing forward and backward. The elbows should be kept close to the body and maintained at 90 degrees. Avoid excessive swinging of arms, rotation of the shoulders and hips.

Key Points:

  • Avoid swinging the arms across the body.
  • Swing forward and backward.
  • Arm swings are active but relax.
  • Elbows should be kept close to the body,
  • Elbows should be maintained at 90 degrees.
  • Avoid excessive swinging of arms.
  • Avoid rotation of the shoulders and hips.

Excessive heel strike, and elbows crossing the body

4) Foot Strike

The most commonly used foot-strike techniques are the heel strike (landing on the heels first) and the midfoot strike (landing at the ball of the foot first). Not all elite long distance runners adopt midfoot strike. Video analysis of world champion marathon runners, including Paul Tergat and Haile Gebrselassie has shown employing Midfoot striking while training and competing.

Research has shown that midfoot striking is superior to heel striking from a competitive viewpoint because:

  • Midfoot striking produces less braking force.
  • Midfoot striking has shorter ground contact time, hence faster running speed.
  • Midfoot striking has better impact absorption.
  • Midfoot striking allows faster legs turnover.
  • Heel striking is related to a higher rate of knee injury, longer ground-contact times and higher impact forces.

However, midfoot striking can increase the risk of calf muscles and Achilles tendon injury. Runners changing to mid foot landing should do so progressively, to allow gradual adaptation and to avoid straining of the lower legs.

5) Knees Flexion

Less force is required to swing the leg forward with a flexed knee. Therefore, a flexed knee can save energy. However, avoid excessive knee flexion as it will take longer to swing the leg forward, hence slow down leg turnover rate.

Knee Lift and Hip Extension

whatsapp-image-2016-11-15-at-10-00-56

Extension of hips during drive forward phase can help to maximise stride length and forward distance. High-speed running, hill training, speed bounding, are good methods to develop hips extension.

The Running Drills

Ankling

Purpose: Teach the body to land on the ball of the foot and improve stride frequency.

  • Land on ball of the foot first.
  • Quick feet and arms movements.
  • feet pointing downwards.
  • Swing arms like running.
  • Perform as many times as possible.
  • Body posture upright.
  • Land on ball of the foot.

ankling

High Knees Lift

Purpose: Teach the body to land on the ball of the foot, improve stride frequency and improve knee lifts.

  • Take small steps forward, running is not allowed.
  • Lift knees to 90 degrees.
  • Swing arms like running.
  • Perform as many times as possible.
  • Body posture upright.
  • Land on ball of the foot.

high-knee

Heel Flicks

Purpose: Teach the body to land on the ball of the foot, improve stride frequency and improve knee flexion.

  • Take small steps forward, running is not allowed.
  • Knees pointing downwards.
  • Flick heels up trying to hit the glutes.
  • Perform as many times as possible.
  • Swing arms like running.
  • Body posture upright.
  • Land on ball of the foot.

heel-flick

Shuffling

Purpose: Teach the body to land on the ball of the foot, improve foot- ground contact time and body posture.

  • Move forward slowly.
  • Fast leg and arms action.
  • Knees straightened kick outwards.
  • Perform as many times as possible.
  • Swing arms like running.
  • Body posture upright.
  • Land on ball of the foot.

shuffle

High Knees with leg extension

Purpose: Teach the body to land on the ball of the foot, clawing action and to improve stride length.

  • Lift knees to 90 degrees.
  • Extend leg out and drive down in a clawing action.
  • Skip to move forward.
  • Perform as many times as possible.
  • Swing arms like running.
  • Body posture upright.
  • Land on ball of the foot.

 

videotogif_2016-11-15_14-39-27

Running drills using speed hurdles.

Purpose: To improve coordination of arms and legs.

6 inch hurdles: Run through and lateral High knees

  • Run through the speed hurdles one hurdle per stride.
  • Maintain  upright body position.
  • Control and relaxation of arm swings.
  • Lift knees up to 90 degrees.
run-thru

videotogif_2016-11-15_14-10-23

 

12-18 inch hurdles:  Side high knees

  • Lift up the knees and bring each foot over the hurdles.
  • Maintain  upright body position.
  • Control and relaxation of arm swings.
  • Skip to move side.

side-knee-lift

 

 

 

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