Contributor: Running 2 PR’s
There’s a saying that my martial arts dojo reiterates over and over again, because it’s worth repeating and it’s true: Good form means you can do more.
(Bet you didn’t think I’d start out by mentioning martial arts, did you?)
It’s all relative. In running, good form translates into faster times, less energy wasted, potential injury prevention, and easier recovery, so it makes sense as a runner to want to improve your running form even if you don’t have any aspirations of winning a race. Maybe you just want to knock a significant chunk of time off of your next race. Yes, good form means you can do more.
In OCR, many racers make the mistake of focusing their training solely on obstacle practice or solely on strength training. But, obstacle course races (for the most part) are made up of a significant portion of…you guessed it…running!
Think about it. Say a race is a 10k made up of 25 obstacles (such as the Spartan Super). Say the race takes you 1.5 hours total and you fail 2 obstacles. Each obstacle takes an approximate 30 seconds to complete plus we’ll say 3 minutes per set of burpees. That’s 18.5 minutes spent on obstacles and penalties, leaving roughly an hour and 12 minutes of pure running. The point being this: if you want to shave time off, you need to train three areas: running to run stronger and faster, strength to conquer obstacles and avoid penalties, and obstacles because experience and repetition is key. Your goal is to be a well-rounded racer. But, I’m a run coach, and I’m here to talk about running form.
SO, HOW CAN I IMPROVE MY RUNNING FORM?
While there’s certainly no one right or wrong way to go about improving your running form, there are a couple of tips I’ve found helpful over the years. I hope they can be useful to you.
The first is that you have to be cognizant of your current running form. You can’t figure out what you need to improve upon if you don’t know what your current running quirks are to begin with. I’ve played competitive soccer my whole life, so for me, one of the things I’m working on is my left foot. In soccer, my left foot is my plant foot so it’s used for planting and pivoting in order to cross the ball or kick a goal. When I run, it naturally pivots outward. My track coaches never had me fix this when I was in high school, so now that I’ve finally hung my soccer boots up I’m working to fix it on my own. Old habits die hard!
The second is to spend time consciously thinking about what you’re trying to improve when you’re running. If you need to go out and do a run where you forget about distance, time, pace, and anything else to focus on fixing your form, then do that.
ANY OTHER TIPS?
I also offer these other tips:
Go to a track if you have access to one and focus on your form there. (It’s beneficial to do track workouts anyway if you’re wanting to get faster). Do some intervals and pick what you’re going to work on. For example, my wife Bethany has been focusing on transitioning from a heel striker to more of a mid-foot striker. She does this during intervals at the track. It’s easy at a track because you don’t have to worry about traffic or eating it on a trail. It’s also easy to set up a camera at a track to take a video so you can see your progress.
You can also try incorporating a mantra like “Push, Pull, Lift” and then push off, pull your leg, and lift your foot from the ground into the forward motion. Do this until it becomes second nature.
If you need help training your running, I offer several different running packages. All plans are written by me custom to you and your goals, include a running form analysis and feedback, as well as unlimited communication in order to make sure you benefit and can achieve your next PR! I’d love to help you achieve your goals, so please let me know how I can be of service. Feel free to DM me directly on Instagram with any questions.
Eddie Diaz is a certified UESCA running coach with over 15 years of competitive racing under his belt. As a prior competitive track runner, Eddie specialized in both the 400m and 800m races. He won multiple titles and podium finishes at all levels of competition, with his Personal Records sitting at 47.6 seconds in the 400-meter and 1:50:09 seconds for the 800-meter. His 1-Mile PR is a 4:09 (~ 1998), but his most recent attempt was a 4:58 (set 6/3/2020). He has earned more than 2 dozen OCR podiums since beginning in the sport a few short years ago.