“If you want to improve as a runner, you’ve got to do more than just run. You’ve got to make time to do the extra stuff, too. Taking 20 minutes to do a handful of drills, such as those demonstrated here by Colorado-based 2012 Australian Olympic marathoner Benita Willis, can dramatically improve your running form and economy (or the ability to run fast efficiently) and increase your stride cadence and racing speed.
Each of the drills highlights one or more aspects of good running form and accentuates them through repetitive motion, which trains the body to become comfortable with that movement so it can be inserted into your typical running mechanics. These drills can serve as a dynamic warmup routine after a 10-minute easy jog before your regularly scheduled run or workout, or they can be completed after a run to reinstate the notion of running with good form while fatigued.
Try to do these drills three to four times per week on an ongoing basis, focusing on the precise movements outlined below. There are numerous other drills you can incorporate into your routine, including acceleration strides, but the most important factor is doing them consistently.
Why: Butt kicks engage the hamstrings and accentuate the recovery portion of the running gait and improve leg turnover cadence.
How: Run in place with your thighs more or less locked in a neutral position and try to kick yourself in the glute with your heel on each stride. Focus on keeping the rest of your body still and simply flicking your lower leg backward. If you’re not making contact, you need to improve your dynamic range of motion. Do two or four reps of 15 kicks with each leg.
Why: The high knees drill accentuates knee lift and glutes and hamstring power, which are keys to running fast and efficiently, as well as powerful and efficient leg drive.
How: Taking short steps with a very quick cadence, alternate thrusting knees upward until your thigh breaks a plane parallel to the ground. Focus on soft, flat footstrikes near the ball of your foot while using your core to lower your leg down slowly instead of letting it crash to the ground. Do two to four reps of 15 lifts on each knee.
Why: Bounding increases foot, calf and hamstring muscle power and develops single-leg stance stability necessary to maintain fluid running form while fatigued.
How: On a flat or very slightly downhill slope, alternate thrusting into the air off one leg in an exaggerated skipping motion. The focus should be on a powerful leap into the air and a quick (but not super fast) cadence. Your arm motion should be synced to the opposite leg’s action, holding steady for the brief moment while you’re off the ground. Do three to four reps of 10 leaps on each leg.” Continued…