Drills that enforce proper running form should teach you how to propel your legs effectively while allowing you to move your arms and upper body in concert with your lower half. In addition to developing good form, most of these drills will build up muscles in your legs and core, which will serve as an additional source of strength in running.
1. Knee Raises
This drill requires you to lift your legs high up toward your abdomen, while still maintaining a solid back. Start with feet together, then hop slightly on your left foot to raise your right knee upwards and then switch quickly to repeat the move with the opposite foot. Repeat for ten counts and rest. Don't kick your calves up in front of your body as you're raising your knee, but keep the knees bent to let the bottom of your foot remain parallel with the ground as your leg is raised. Be sure to land gently on your feet, rolling from your ball to your heel, to prevent shock and painful impact to your joints. Don't bend your back forward, but stay straight.
Lunges will strengthen and stretch your legs while requiring you to stay balanced. This drill will help develop the long, open stride that is important to distance runners. Start with your right leg extended in front of you as it can go, keeping in line with your right hip and your toes facing forward. Extend your left leg behind you, also keeping it even with the hip. Bend your right knee and drop your left knee down toward the ground, then raise up. Repeat this ten times, then switch legs. Hold free weights while doing this for added resistance.
3. Grasshopper Hops
While not the most technical term, this exercise allows you to use your arms and legs to propel you forward, a key aspect of running form. Start with feet about hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Lean forward slightly, but don't let your shoulders droop. Keep arms down and straight at your sides, but slightly in front you. Jump forward as far as you can to land on both of your feet, pushing your arms back behind you to gain the necessary momentum and force. Be sure not too hunch your shoulders too far forward, but keep a clean, diagonal line with your lower and middle back. This exercise will strengthen your core and back to help improve running posture.
4. Kickboxing Drills
The array of moves found in typical kickboxing classes are fantastic for runners, in that they require you to move your arms and legs together forcefully. The blend of muscles that kickboxing works also makes for a strong core, which further enforces good balance and posture in runners. These will require you to keep your back straight and tight, which will translate well to the race course.
- Work on sidekicks, while punching arms down toward your middle.
- Kick forward and jab your arm forward, level with your shoulder.
- Kicking back while hook punching across your core with your opposite arm will condition your body to maintain balance with your arms, an essential aspect of good running form.