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FORM: STAND TALL--HEAD UP, KNEES UP, TOES UP
POSTURE: Except for during the acceleration phase, it is critical that the body assumes an erect position when running. The lead foot will normally land under the COM (center of mass) of the body. When leaning forward, the COM will not be directly above the hips, causing the lead foot to land in front of the hips. When this happens, there is a slight braking action every time that the foot lands. "Stand tall", with the head up!
DORSIFLEXION: Key to all muscular activity is the recruitment of the proper muscles at the right time. This is doubly true in the development of running speed and dorsiflexion is the key to this. Dorsiflexion of the foot (pulling the toes/foot up toward the shin) recruits the calf (gastrocnemius) muscle into the running action. When the foot lands in the dorsiflexed position, the calf muscle can be contracted, helping to propel the body forward by pushing backward on the running surface. This will move the foot off the ground more quickly. Re-dorsiflexing the foot as soon as it leaves the ground will allow the foot/leg to be more quickly pulled through the recovery phase. "Toes up!"
FOOT ACTION: When viewed from the side, the path of the foot should be circular and not elliptical. When the foot leaves the ground, it should be brought up quickly to the butt, forward past the opposing knee and back to the ground. When the heel is in it's highest position, contacting or near the butt, the thigh should be parallel to the running surface and not pointed down toward the ground. As the dorsiflexed foot contacts the ground, it should be moving backwards, with a "negative foot speed". Shortening the time required to complete this cycle by getting the foot off the ground more quickly and then getting back on the ground as fast as possible will increase running speed. "Knees up!"
NEGATIVE FOOT SPEED: The ability to create a negative foot speed (foot moving backwards at running surface contact time) is the critical characteristic that most often separates the winners from the also rans. By doing this, the runner pulls the running surface backward while propelling the body forward. If the foot is not moving backward as fast as the COM is moving forward, a braking action will occur on every stride.
"A"-or-"KNEE HIGH" DRILLS: This drill is initiated by starting with a walk or "march", then progressing to a skipping action and then to the jog. It is designed to improve the movement action of the legs. While walking, the toe, foot, heel and knee are all lifted from the ground in one action. The calf is folded against the hamstring with the thigh parallel to the ground. The foot is brought forward past the knee, driven back to the ground and pulled backward. At the beginning, you will get the feeling that you are marching.
"B" DRILLS: The "B" drills are initiated only after the "A" drills have been learned. This drill will help to develop the feeling of having a negative foot speed. The primary difference between the "A" and "B" is that in the "B", the leg is driven back to the ground more quickly than it is brought up to the butt.
STRAIGHT LEG SHUFFLE: As the name implies, the legs are kept straight in this drill. The knees are not bent. To begin this, there should be a slight forward lean with the shoulders in front of the hips. Keeping the foot dorsiflexed and the leg straight, the foot should be swung forward and then quickly returned to the running surface. The hips should be propelled forward as the foot pulls the ground backward. Once the walking action is mastered, the athlete should proceed to a straight leg bounding action. The bounding will allow for the development of greater negative forces with each landing.
FAST/QUICK LEG: This drill is done one leg at a time while jogging slowly. Forward speed is unimportant, but leg speed in the drill is critical. Simply, while jogging, move one leg rapidly through one full cycle and back to the ground. The leg action is the same as in the "butt kicks", coming up to the butt, forward past the knee and back to the surface in one very fast movement. Start by doing just one cycle with one leg, jog a few more strides and then do the other leg. After learning this movement, progress to where you can do four in a row with one leg while maintaining a slow jogging motion with the other leg. This drill takes the leg quickly through a full range of motion. While on a recovery jog between intervals, throwing in a couple of these will help stretch the leg muscles.
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