Running faster isn’t just about putting in more effort. Smooth, fast distance running starts with your technique. Before you crank up the mileage, make sure your speed efficiency is on point with these five running drills and quick posture checklist.
The Benefits Of Running Drills
Adding simple running drills (like the ones below) into your training routine will improve your posture, running technique, and efficiency. Match your choice of drills to weak points in your personal running style, and iron out any bad habits before they become ingrained. Learn to use drills as a beginner and you’ll evolve into a much smarter athlete (and probably have fewer injuries!)
Drills also sharpen your proprioception, help you gain muscular control through your entire running stride, and give you the skills to handle fatigue during the latter stages of long runs.
The Efficient Running Style Checklist
Run this full-body scan every time you train, and you’ll soon identify any weak points in your running technique so you can apply the appropriate drills.
- Eyes: looking straight ahead
- Head: relaxed and balanced
- Neck: straight and not tensed
- Shoulders: loose and relaxed so they can swing gently
- Arms: elbows bent roughly at right angles, arms swinging forwards and back
- Chest: high and open to encourage efficient breathing and good posture
- Hips: facing forward and stable, not shifting from side to side
- Feet: pointing roughly forwards to avoid collapsing inwards or rolling outwards
- Stride: land with your foot under your body and keep foot contact light
Bounding & Lateral Bounding
Bounding is like an exaggerated skipping motion. It increases the power through your calves and hamstrings, and also help you develop stability on one leg (which will help you stay strong and fast when you get tired towards the end of a run).
Choose a flat or slightly downhill surface and start running. Incorporate a few bounds by pushing hard off one foot and lifting the other knee into the air as you move up and forward. Think about making a powerful leap up and forward, keeping your chest high and using your arms to help propel the bound. Do 3-4 sets of 10 bounds per leg.
Lateral (sideways) bounding acts in a similar way, but develops lateral strength and stability in the glutes, hips, and psoas. These are all relatively small muscles which can get neglected with constant forward running, and will benefit from some targeted attention. Do lateral bounds in a similar way to regular forward bounds, but leap forward and slightly outwards to one side.
Kicking your butt with your heels will wake up the hamstrings and help build a good mind/muscle connection with this powerful muscle group. Glute kicks will also improve your running cadence and encourage a faster, lighter stride pattern.
You can use glute kicks as you run forwards or as you run on the spot. Either way, lean slightly forward and aim to kick your buttock with your heel on each stride. Think about a light, flicking motion to develop a faster running pattern. If you struggle to get your heel to your buttock, you might need to work on your range of motion, your quadriceps flexibility, or your hip mobility. Try 15-20 kicks (followed by active rest of regular running) for 3-4 sets.
If you need to work on lifting your legs higher for a better running stride, add high knees to your training schedule. High knees encourage a better knee lift and will help you build glute and hamstring power, for a better leg drive.
To do high knees, take shorter and faster strides and think about bringing your knees up higher than your hips. You should lower the leg with control, and land on the ball of your foot. Do 20-30 high knees (10-15 per leg).
This isn’t a drill you’ll be able to do often (try it and you’ll see how challenging it is!) but it’s well worth adding to your regime. Short bursts of backwards running help you concentrate, give you better awareness of your body as you run, and will stop you from slipping into any lazy habits. On a physical level, backwards running strengthens your glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and core.
To do this drill, choose a flat, straight, safe place to run. Then simply run backwards exactly like you run forwards - don’t attempt to change your tempo or running style. Swing your arms as normal, and focus on your form not your speed. Try to run backwards for 50m-100m and repeat this 3-4 times if you can.
You might recognise this drill from the professional sports field - you’ll often see athletes doing a few reps before a race or a match. Hamstring extensions help free up the hamstrings and increase mobility in the legs and glutes, which will translate into more efficient running form.
Keep your chest high and your core tight, and flick one leg forward whist reaching with the opposite hand (try to touch the toe of the extended foot). Keep the extended leg straight but relaxed. This drill should feel like slow-motion skipping. Try 10 hamstring extensions per leg and repeat 2-3 times.