Daily Dose of Coach #156: Teaching Running Form to Joggers

Last week I had a discussion with one of the other fitness professionals in my facility about teaching running form technique to the members who participate in our adult classes. These people range anywhere from 25-65, primarily do boot camp style classes that may include running of up to, but no more than, 800m. Many of these individuals tend to "run" or jog for their cardio outside of the gym.

One class day included programing running form technique drills as a warm up. The workout that followed, included more running volume than normal. This prompted me to think, if I had just 10 minutes to teach this group of people about running form or how they could get more benefit out of their running, what would I teach?

Normally, when I think of running form technique drills, I think of my experience as a performance coach. I've taught athletes, including top NFL and MLB draft picks on how to properly run their 40 and 60 yard sprints for over a decade. So when I see three 30 something year old mothers about to embark in running form technique drills, I have to think quite differently.

All basic running form drills can be used as a warm-up for pretty much anyone with little instruction. It's basically different forms of marches, skips, butt kicks and high knees. My thoughts went to, if I had one crack at teaching a person who doesn't really sprint, but jogs, for exercise, what would I try to teach them? I came up with these 4 simple tips:

  1. Running is primarily linear, do your best to keep every thing moving in that plane. Especially the arms. Don't cross your arms in front of you when you run, keep everything moving in that linear plane as much as possible.
  2. Keep your hands and wrists relaxed, the more efficient you are the more energy you conserve. Relaxed hands translates to relaxed arms and shoulders as you run. This not only makes you more efficient, but also helps limit those who rotate their torso when they run.
  3. Understand how your arms relate to running. The faster your arms go, the faster your legs go. Using your arms correctly decreases the metabolic cost of running. When you legs get tired drive your arms harder. Or, if you're crossing a street and see a car coming, drive your arms harder!
  4. Sprint. Sprinting causes stiffness. Jogging posture tends to be more concave and things are just flailing around. This continuous pattern of absorbing ground reaction forces (or running), in a non-stiffened body, is why "runners" are the most injured population around. These help the body develop all the "itis's." Interval sprint training can decrease the volume of these forces, give you a greater benefit as far a body composition goals go, and decrease your chances of injury.