5 simple tricks that will make you a better runner this spring

(Photo: Weheartit.com)

(Photo: Weheartit.com)


Whether you’re kicking off your training for the Brooklyn Half or just like to get in some cardio (and vitamin D) on a run, fixing your form can really up your running game and what you get out of it. We’re talking to you, heel-striker.

“I’d estimate that 95 percent of runners start out as heel-strikers,” says Michael Conlon, the marathon coach and physical therapist-owner of Finish Line Physical Therapy, where he helps runners adjust their form for maximum results and injury prevention. (He’s also a 24-time marathoner and three-time Ironman finisher.)

Heel striking is a no-no because it’s less efficient, which means it will slow you down, and you’ll get less out of your miles. And while you don’t have to throw out your sneakers and adopt the leaping barefoot gait of a gazelle immediately, learning to land just a little bit further forward, on your midfoot—and eventually forefoot—will be a big, efficient step forward.

“Improving your running form is a skill that must be practiced and learned,” Conlon says, which is where these five simple drills come in:

Coach Michael Conlon (Photo: Finish Line PT)

Michael Conlon (Photo: Finish Line PT)

Five easy drills

The trick is teaching your body proper form through movements that force you to land further forward. As your body gets used to the pattern, it will start to adopt the same one when you run, too. Good news: the five drills that do this are all exercises you’ve most likely done before: high knees, butt kicks, skipping, backwards running, and shuffle grapevines. If you’re skeptical, try to land on your heels while doing any of these. It’s really hard.

When should you do them?

“Most runners don’t do drills because they think it will add a lot of extra time on to their runs,” Conlon says, “but it can be as simple as incorporating four to six drills into your warm-ups.” The best part is that you’ll still be running the same distance, and they’ll help get your heart rate up and ease you into the run, which prevents injuries caused by going from 0 to 100 anyway.

How to do them

“Alternate between doing a drill and running easy,” Conlon explains. “I do them between lampposts, so alternate one lamppost drill number one, one lamppost run easy, one lamppost drill number two, one lamppost run easy, etc. Concentrate on maintaining that form as you continue running. If you find yourself slipping, add in another quick lamppost to lamppost drill to regain the feeling of running on your forefoot.” You might surprise some passersby (especially with the skipping), but it’ll be worth it when you shave a few minutes off your race time. —Lisa Elaine Held

For more information, visit www.finishlinept.com


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  1. April 4th, 2014 at 9:37 am

    Thanks for the post! This is the first I’ve heard about adding drills to your run and I’m intrigued. Will try it this weekend.

  2. April 4th, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    I am so much more comfortable landing on my forefoot. A few years back I started running and landing with a heel strike and for days my hip hurt and I had no idea why. I stopped running but a year or so afterwards I had learned about landing on the front of my feet and it changed my world. Lately I’ve been trying to learn more about “barefoot” minimalist running and tried these GladSoles minimalist custom fit running sandles, and I fell in love.

  3. April 5th, 2014 at 11:41 am

    Where can I find an illustration of the 5 drills?

  4. April 5th, 2014 at 11:43 am

    Photos of 5 drills?

  5. April 30th, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    Despite the article advising against it, in the picture the model is clearly landing on her heel.

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