Form. This “F” is one of the most important elements of run training. I hope you didn’t think I meant something else. This “F” is ignored by most beginning runners because, until confronted with video proof, most believe they have great form. Those who admit to poor form ignore improvement, because trying to improve involves the all so dreaded form drills.
Good news, if you are regularly doing drills as part of your warm-up, or dedicating a rest day to them, you are probably improving your form and running faster times because of it. Bad news, most runners hate drills and treat them like past lovers. If you’re not doing drills, you should be. Doing drill exercises do more than warm up your muscles, they teach your muscles correct movement patterns. Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice, makes perfect.
Imagine this, you have never played tennis, someone hands you a racket and says “lets go hit some balls”. No matter how hard you try the ball does not seem to go over the net, or when it does it sails not only over the net but also over the protective fence. Your frustration builds until you say “this is hopeless”, you leave the court in total disgust and you never pick up the racket again.
Running is no less a skilled athletic endeavor than tennis. Just because we can run, or contact the tennis ball, does not mean we have established any control over our movement patterns. Drills teach us, if done properly, specific neurological patterns. When you have mastered a drill, you have mastered a pattern and you are now ready to take that pattern into competition.
Where can I find drills and learn the specifics? Honestly, there are numerous outlets available, youtube being the one that comes to the front. If you don’t have youtube, or a coach, ask a knowledgeable running partner. I am sure one of your mates was involved in athletics and remembers the drills that a good coach hammered into them while they were competing. After you have defined the patterns, get busy and ready to improve. If you are a beginner, do what master coaches do when they are growing talent, SLOW DOWN the movements to ridiculously slow speeds. You will have far greater success if you give your muscles time to adapt to the new patterns. Drill and master the movement until it owns you. As the new movement becomes ingrained and begins to flow, turn up speed. When you have flow and speed your running efficiency will improve, and your race times will come down. You are now ready to grab the pebble from your masters hand, and keep the ball on the court.