Below is a blog post I wrote for Cape Cod Rehab’s Cape Cod Marathon Training Tips. To see the original, visit the Mashpee Fitness blog. Also—I owe a BIG thank you to Meaghan for demonstrating each exercise as I deal with an Achilles strain!
One way to improve your running speed and efficiency is by practicing form drills. It is very common that your running form can break down with fatigue and any change in stride will increase your chance of injury. Form running drills exaggerate different elements of the running stride to increase range of motion, build strength and develop muscle memory for important movement patterns.
When should you perform form running drills?
Try adding the drills below into your training plan 2-3x per week. They should be done after your warm up/dynamic warm up and before your workout.
Note: Do not perform any exercise that causes or increases pain.
High knees focuses on a powerful leg drive to develop strength in the quads and hip flexors.
How: Take short steps and alternate lifting your knees upward until your thigh is at least parallel to the ground. Foot strikes should be soft and near the balls of your feet.
Hello hamstrings! Butt kicks get the hamstring muscles firing and emphasize the recovery phase—also known as the follow through. Tight or weak hamstrings can lead to more of a shuffle stride with a low heel kick and shorter gait.
How: Alternate bringing your heels towards your glutes as you keep your thighs perpendicular to the ground.
Benefits are similar to the high knee drill but skipping also incorporates calf and hamstring power along with increased ankle stability.
How: When was the last time you skipped? Skip forward focusing on height and soft landings. As you drive up off the ground, lift your opposite arm overhead.
Quick feet works on your cadence teaching your muscles to fire and turnover at a faster rate. Bonus! Quick feet is an excellent drill for over-striders.
How: Work on fast feet and fast arms as if you are running on hot coals. You should be running more on the balls of your feet and don’t worry about your high knees and butt kicks—just speed and quickness!
Run backwards to recruit different muscles. It strengthens the quads while promoting good posture.
How: Just as it sounds—run backwards! Focus on standing up tall and take long strides landing on the balls of your feet.
Running is almost performed exclusively in a straight line moving forward but it is very important to train laterally. The Carioca exercise (also known as the grapevine) works on hip mobility and lateral stability.
How: Cross one leg in front of the other, step out to the side, then cross your leg behind the other, step out to the side. Swing your arms side to side and your hips should be rotating as well. Start out slow and increase your speed as you get the hang of it. Don’t forget to repeat the exercises leading with the other leg!
We even made a video! Check it:
Good luck out there! Happy running!