XTerra Series III: Turning good form into better results

#ESPTIPCAST 76 #XTerratraining series 3 discusses how to improve your #runningform for #fasterrunning. @skratchlabs @sls3usa @gooutandplay

In part 2 of my XTerra series, I discussed why we may indeed be built to run, but not necessarily born to run. The fact is humans are now so far removed to our paleo running roots that most of us need to relearn what that good form is, and then perfect it. I offered some tips on how to move towards better running technique in the last article, in part 3 I’m going to discuss how to put those skills and better form into training.

Trails are for technique, not training

Wait, did I just suggest that you should stop training on trails? To some extent, yes! While requiring less technical skill than mountain biking, running on trails is still largely a time suck for quality training. This is not to say you don’t need to run on trails. But like mountain biking, too many athletes spend time plodding around accomplishing very little, or simply running too hard because of the demanding terrain. If you want to get faster, hit the road!

Putting it all together

So now that I’ve outlined why good form is important, and some ideas for what to improve, here are some ideas on how to build this into your overall program.

  1. Analyze your run by getting a friend to take some video (front, side and back) while running on a treadmill. Run at a range of paces for at least 5 min each, starting at 10 min/mile and working up to your 5 k pace. This will not only let you determine your cadence at a range of speeds, but also give you an idea of how your step length and cadence change as speed increases, and fatigue creeps in. Remember, elite runners shorten their stride to maintain optimal cadence as they fatigue. Incidentally, I have found the i-Pad video feature works very well for this. You can watch my recent analysis here.
  2. Learn to shorten your stride, increase your turn-over, and minimize heel strike by adding barefoot running either on the grass or the treadmill. I like to either start, finish, or start and finish a run with a 1/2 mile of barefoot running on the treadmill. If you have a foot pod, you’ll notice that your cadence increases dramatically at any speed when barefoot.
  3. Add at least 10 min of movement prep and warm-up to 80% of your runs. This has long been a weakness of mine that I set out to improve this off-season. One example that I’ve been using is this:
    • 5 min of foam roll for the hips and legs, followed by short hip flexor, toe touch, and calf stretches, plus hamstring kick outs.
    • 5 min of easy jogging
    • 5 – 10 min of 3 or 4 running drills including one or more skipping drills.
  4. Tune-in during every run to be sure you’re maintain that posture. Notice any niggling pain. If you can, stop and massage it out and continue. Again, training is about perfecting your run, not tough out the pain!
  5. Using either a foot pod or metronome to increase your cadence about 6-10 steps per minute; the combination of the barefoot drills and this work should increase your cadence in about a month.
  6. Improve basic mobility and stability with a combined strength and flexibility training program.
  7. Include some specific speed work throughout the year, which again emphasizes the need for XTerra athletes to treat the run as an integral part of the their whole race performance!
  8. Don’t forgo the trail! Again, once you have all the pieces, make the most of the trail by either running fast, or including them in your long run to break things up a bit. You might also try a trail race or two to really hone that trail fitness.
  9. Walk more. In my pacing article, I mention the importance of walking on steep uphills. The same goes for trail training. If you’re on a long run, keep the intensity down by walking the hills.

Well that’s it for part three of the XTerra series. While the above article might suggest a major shift in your training, requiring lots of extra time, the reality is that the improved technique will pay huge dividends long-term. Moreover, the off-season is the ideal time to make these changes. In part three of the series, I will tackle practical swim training tips.

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