Updated: May 27, 2020
The online coaching platform is great for individualized training programs and for athletes that can not commit to scheduled group runs. It allows you to find your own time to run and you know the workout was made just for you based on your training progress and goals. Coach is available to answer your questions and give you a poke for motivation when needed but since I can’t have eyes on you at practice its important that you concentrate on running form. Here are some tips to improve form which will make you a more efficient runner and less prone to injury.
Drills and Exercises: Follow the suggested warmup and injury prevention drills on your calendar. Since a lot of bad form habits, and therefore injuries, are sourced back to weak hips, a strong importance is put on increasing the strength and mobility of your hips and glutes.
Barefoot Running: If you can find a safe place to take your shoes off, like a soccer/football field or infield of a track, and go for a run you will immediately have improved form. Without the cushion and elevated heel of a shoe your brain won’t let you heel strike. Completing 1-2 short runs (less than 5k) or strides (~100m gentle accelerations) barefoot after a run will improve your form for when you do wear shoes and greatly reduce risk for injury by strengthening of tendon and muscle groups you probably are not used to using. Be sure to ease into barefoot runs, starting with very short duration, as your body will need time to adjust.
Zero Drop Footwear: In addition to barefoot running you can switch to shoes with a Zero Drop, meaning there is no drop in height from your heel to your toes (most typical running shoes will have between 8-13mm of extra height under the heal which promotes harmful heal striking). Zero Drop shoes keep your feet in a natural, barefoot, running position allowing you to run more natural while still receiving the benefits of cushion and protection. Coach Calum Neff is an Altra shoe sponsored athlete and attributes his long stretch of good health and performance to their Zero Drop footwear.
Increase Stride Rate: One of the best things you can do for your running is to increase the amount of steps you are taking each minute. Elite runners are taking between 180-200 steps every single minute while most runners will find themselves in the 140-160 range. Measure yourself by counting every time your right foot touches the ground over a 20 second period during a normal run on flat hard surface. Multiply that number by 6 to calculate your stride rate in steps per minute. Example: You count your right foot hit the ground 30 times over a 20” period, this gives you a rate of 180. If you find your rate below 180 you should make an effort to increase your stride rate on all of your runs, with a goal of increasing by 10%. Setting a metronome app to 10% higher than your normal stride rate is also a good way to practice increasing.
Arm Swing: In general, your arms should swing naturally back-and-forth without crossing the body, with a ~90 degree bent elbow the entire swing, your elbow should not swing any further forward then your hip unless sprinting and your relaxed hands should swing all the way back enough to touch your hips. Arms should remain compact/close to your body and swing speed and range should increase with pace.
Form Strides: When working with athletes one-on-one I always suggest three strides as part of their warm-up that concentrate on one body component at a time. The first stride we focus on staying upright and tall, nothing else. The second we concentrate on good arm swing and the final stride the focus is on fast feet, quick steps.
Gait Analysis: If you are really concerned with your form or have been battling injuries there are a few professional services that can complete 3D gait analysis with feedback on areas you can improve. Alternatively you may discuss with your Coach about sending in a video, preferably filmed at a high rate (60fps or slow motion feature on iPhone) from side/front/back angles at different paces.
Running light, smooth, and efficient is something you should always concentrate on. Listen to feedback from your body, like scuffing your feet. Look at the bottoms of your shoes for excessive localized wear. Watching videos, especially of the East Africans running, is not only motivational but good help for your proprioception and visualization of how you want to run.