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Want to run healthy and strong for a lifetime? Try these five form drills to improve alignment and remain injury-free!
PICTURE THIS: You strike a curb while driving your car. One-thousand miles later, you take your car in for a checkup to find your tires show signs of early and uneven wear. The mechanic recommends an alignment to put everything back in working order.
NOW IMAGINE THIS: After a run, you feel an ache in your calf. Instead of focusing on the root of the problem, you take a few days off and pop a few Advil. As soon as the pain subsides, you start running again. Within a few weeks, the ache returns.
Similar to uneven tire wear, discomfort during running is often rooted in misalignment. And like car maintenance, it’s important to perform routine checkups to monitor the position of your moving parts.
So how can you improve your form? It’s easy! Simply dedicate 15 minutes a week to form drills that support proper positioning. By isolating and perfecting different motions in each exercise, you will train muscles to automatically replicate correct form during your normals runs and workouts.
Always warm up with a short run (at least one mile) before starting the form drills. Aim to perform these exercises one or two times per week.
Run in Place
Stand tall. Run in place, imagining there is a cable attached to your head, pulling your spine straight. Try to lift your legs from your core and keep your feet and ankles relaxed. Continue to mindfully run in place for 15 seconds. Repeat three times.
Stand tall with the rope behind your heels. Start to jump rope, concentrating on landing as softly as possible. Keep your ankles relaxed as you settle your heels toward the ground with each jump. If your calf muscles feel tight, you are pushing off too hard. Continue jumping rope for 20 seconds. Repeat three times.
Begin running in place by lifting your knees up to a 90-degree angle, thighs parallel to the earth. Strive to achieve soft, relaxed foot strikes while utilizing your core strength to lower your legs with control rather than dropping them down to the ground. Swing your arms to maintain balance. Complete 20 high knees (10 on each leg). Repeat three times.
Stand up straight, slightly bending at the ankles and knees. Quickly flick one leg behind your body so that your heel touches your butt (or gets as close as possible). Continue to alternate legs, concentrating on the heel-to-bum motion, and land gently on your mid-foot as you move forward. Aim for high cadence, while moving your arms back and forth close to your body to maintain balance. Complete 20 butt kicks (10 on each leg). Repeat three times.
Stand tall with your arms by your sides. Start to run forward, pushing your chest out and moving your arms behind your body so the palms of your hands are facing the sky. Focus on the feeling of how leaning your chest forward propels your body. Take 20 steps (10 per leg). Repeat three times.
Danny Abshire is the co-founder of Newton Running and co-author of Natural Running: The Simple Path to Stronger, Healthier Running. He has worked closely with thousands of athletes to improve their running form and technique.