Adding ‘form drills’ engages muscles and increases your range of motion
building up to eight to 10 bursts, two or three times per week.
Taking off your shoes to do strides on grass is a highly effective way of cueing new stride mechanics, long predating the last decades’ minimalist and barefoot movements. Studies, such as a 2014 investigation at Trinity College in Dublin, show that many people run differently shod and unshod. Full-time unshod running is practical only for a few, but if the goal is to shake up how you run, there are few better ways than to take off your shoes. Coach Mark Cucuzzella recommends a steady progression, starting with soft, gentle, two-leg hops and gradually working up to all-out sprints. 1 / Do 10 easy hops forward, then 10 back. Advance to a short one-leg hop. Then, with a very light, low stride, gently jog for 30-50 metres, noting how your foot lands and how your knees bend and hips move. Increase your turnover to hit an easy, long-run pace. Try a 100m at 5K pace. If you’re comfortable, run a few strides, going as fast as you can turn over without straining. 2 / Even after you’ve worked up to doing eight to 10 strides all out, continue to do some barefoot work at other paces to encourage the neuromuscular recruitment in a barefoot-running pattern at those paces. As noted above, sprinting is great for shaking things up and activating the full array of nerves and muscles, but most runners use a different stride when sprinting than they do when running long on the road – runners can go from a tall, light barefoot sprint to a hunched, compromised distance-running stride without translating any of the movement pattern. 3 / When you return to your shoes and socks, put them on while standing up, which adds a sneaky element of single-leg balancing (the next drill) in a natural way.
Single-leg balance, high knees, A-skips, bum kicks, cariocas, backward running, forward lunges, backward lunges – the list of drills that will improve your running form can get overwhelming, leaving you prone to giving up and doing nothing. Which is why – working with physiotherapist Trent Nessler, naturalrunning expert Cucuzzella, and kinesiologist and coach Green – we devised a sequence (below) that flows naturally from pose to pose, making it easy to remember and quick to perform. ‘This is especially effective for those under time constraints for their workout,’ says Green. It takes just five minutes to complete 10 sets.
In those five minutes, the sequence reinforces several key elements of an efficient stride, specifically hip and glute strength, hip and shoulder flexibility, and dynamic balance. Move through the exercises smoothly and slowly before and/or after every run, or at other times during the day that suit you. Hold each position for just one to two seconds.
Adapted from Your Best Stride (Rodale) by Jonathan Beverly.