Focus on Form: Offseason Cycling and Running Drills

Form Drills for Running

Watch Your Run
If you can score a treadmill that faces a mirror, great! While you warm up on the treadmill, notice your shoulders.

Are they relaxed, or are they creeping up into a shrug position? Is your faced relaxed, or are you clenching your teeth? Could you hold potato chips in your hands without crushing them, or are you clenching your fists?

How about your feet: Do they track straight, or are they pointed out and slapping down as if you were wearing flippers? Is most of your energy spent keeping stride with the treadmill, or do you waste energy with vertical motion?

Next season: When you are in the middle of a race, tightening up, remember what you looked and felt like when you ran relaxed with good form.

Exaggerated Form
Just like we exaggerated formwork on the bike with ILT, we'll exaggerate formwork on the treadmill while running.

Warm up about 15 minutes. After your warm-up, hold onto the front bar of the treadmill and exaggerate high knees for 10 to 20 seconds or foot strikes. Then, for 10 to 20 seconds, allow your feet to stay on the treadmill as long as possible, emphasizing leg extension.

After doing high knees and extended legs, run normally two to five minutes and repeat the sequence again. Repeat this four to 12 times, depending on your level of fitness.

As you get better and need more challenge, increase the speed or grade of the treadmill for the high-knee, extension portion of the workout. When you are ready for regular running, decrease the speed and grade so you can jog easily. Be judicious when increasing treadmill speed and grade. The last thing you want is to have the treadmill spit you off the back and end up in a pile, injured.

Next season: When you are running at the end of a tough race, try to lengthen your stride, as you did on the treadmill. Get a good push from your extended leg and drive your knees forward. Avoid the shuffle, in which your stride length is short and your feet scrape the ground with every step.

Speeding It Up
What about keeping your fast-twitch muscle fibers energized, without tiring yourself out early in the season?

Try accelerations or strides in a workout that is otherwise easy. Warm up on the treadmill for about 15 minutes, then increase the speed of the treadmill to your 10K pace and run for 10 seconds. Slow it back down to jog speed and go for an easy two to three minutes. On your first workout, keep the 10-second acceleration speed near your 10K pace and only do four to six repeats.

As your progress each week, continue to increase the speed for the 10-second increments until you are doing speeds faster than your 5K pace. Also, slowly build the number of accelerations you do to between six and 12.

Next season: Keep some form sprints in your schedule at least twice a month. You can increase the accelerations to 30 seconds and run them outdoors on slightly downhill grass or dirt. Make sure the surface is even, without blind holes or obstacles. You want fast leg turnover, a long stride and a feeling of effortless speed.

I look at the winter months as an opportunity to work on technique and form, and to add variety into workouts. If you can, get someone to videotape you in the pool, on the trainer and on the treadmill so that you will have an even better view of your form.

Work on perfecting your efficiency, aerodynamics and your ability to relax while performing at your best. A little time spent on form now will pay off next season. Enjoy your training!

Gale Bernhardt was the 2003 USA Triathlon Pan American Games and 2004 USA Triathlon Olympic coach for both the men's and women's teams. Her first Olympic experience was as a personal cycling coach at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Thousands of athletes have had successful training and racing experiences using Gale's pre-built, easy-to-follow training plans. For more information, click here. Let Gale and Active Trainer help you succeed.

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