If you’re the person who gets tired near the end of the race and starts to fall back, this could be the most valuable information I’ll ever give you. And, if you’re the person who starts out training strong, but eventually succumbs to injury, this can help immensely with your ability to train to the level you desire.
Recently, we’ve paid a lot of attention to running systems. We’ve explained what they are and how they can help your training. One of the best uses for running systems is to perform a self-correction of your form periodically throughout your run. Doing this helps when you’re deep into a run, getting tired and starting to slip. Once you’ve made good form a habit, you can you quickly run through these steps at any time, correcting your form, preserving energy, and preventing injury.
Conceptually, you’ll be working from the ground up. You’ll start at your feet and work your way up to your head. (Note: Some coaches who teach this may have you work in reverse order, do whatever works best for you). You’re going to focus on each step until you’ve got it correct, and then move to the next step. When you reach the last step, you’ll check for feel and overall form. That’s all. It’s quick, easy, and can make a gigantic difference in your runs.
- Step 1: Check to make sure you are forefoot striking
- Step 2: Check to make sure that you are driving forward with your legs
- Step 3: Check to make sure that you are leaning forward at your ankles
- Step 4: Check to make sure that your hips are directly above your center of gravity
- Step 5: Check to make sure that your arms are moving forward-to-back
- Step 6: Check to make sure that you are not rotating your torso from side-to-side
- Step 7: Check to make sure you have good upper-body posture
- Step 8: Check to make sure you are looking about 20 yards ahead of you
- Step 9: Check to make sure you’re relaxed
- Step 10: Check to make sure you “feel” as though your overall form is good
If that seems like a lot to remember, try boil each point down to a short word or phrase and run through them in 3 steps of three. This is because it’s easier for people to remember things in groups of three. Here is how it breaks down.
- Forefoot Striking
- Drive Forward
- Lean at Ankles
- Hips Centered
- Arms Forward
- Not Rotating
- Good Posture
- Look Forward
Then ask yourself “Do I feel better now?” You should. This entire process should only take you 30 seconds or so, less if you’re already doing things correctly. I’ve found it usually takes me a few seconds to correct a flaw.
Even though this is a short and simple 10-step process, it can have a profound impact on a run. You will feel yourself giving less effort for the same (or better yet, faster performance). The mental effects of this are also worth noting. If you’re struggling, you’ve just given yourself a 30 second mental break from the stress. But, instead of letting your mind wander, you’ve focused on your form, which is yielding immediate benefit. Most importantly, you’re remembering to relax, which is one of the most important things you can do when you’re laboring during a run or race.
Finally, you’re doing the most beneficial thing you could possibly be doing to prevent a running injury. Overuse injuries are by far the most common running injuries and they happen when you’re getting tired and starting to labor. You are focusing on injury-prevention form at the time when you are most susceptible to getting hurt.