One of the more curious expressions in the running vernacular is the concept of being in good form. It’s normally a term you’d associate with skill based sports such as golf, cricket or basketball. Critically in these sports the notion of being in good form is closely linked with touch and feel as it is with correct technical execution of the skills involved such as batting, driving a one iron or shooting free throws.
If you go to the track or watch some rarely televised athletics you’ll hear people talking about athletes having been in good form or looking in good form. Usually they are just passing comment on recent good performances but could good form in running be anything like these skill based activities?
I think it is, but you’d expect a guy who has written a book on Running Technique to hold that point of view. Here’s a few snippets to try and win you over to my kind of thinking.
Thanks to Erica Sara Neuman for the great photos from NYC Marathon 2011.
So you’re gutted, your favorite athlete has just tanked and is giving a forlorn interview to their country’s home broadcaster. How many times have you watched this scenario and heard athletes talk about it being not their day or things just weren’t working for me out there or usually they just don’t know what went wrong.
So what’s the story? Everyone has a bad day or bombs out every so often, but brain fades aside could there be technical explanations? I wonder how many athletes and running coaches take the time to review the full video tape of a race that went wrong to spot if there was anything amiss with the runner’s technique?
This is where having some video of previous good performances is very handy – was there anything different? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s worth looking into. Harder for everyday runners no doubt, but with a bit of encouragement, friends and family can be roped into taking some video of some of your races and training.
Recent injuries can also take a toll on your running mechanics, another reason to allow time for adequate recovery and rehabilitation. When you’re getting back into solid training it is worth double checking that you have not developed any subconscious bad habits, such as favoring away from the side of your body that caused pain of discomfort.
There’s little doubt that feel plays a big part in running. There are going to be days when you execute better than others. Being tuned into the environment and knowing what your best running feels like is pretty critical.
One freak performance isn’t what you’re after, what you want is to be able to string together consistent efforts that are at or about your best (when fully fit) on most occasions.
Consistency in training and being consciously competent in the execution of your running technique will help iron out big differences between your best and worst races.
Factors such as footwear also play a role, moving carefully towards lighter, flexible shoes with a bit less and firmer cushioning seems to help. Read a bit more about the benefits of minimalist running shoes and how to begin making a safe transition in this article.
You certainly want to be able to reduce variation in your running technique during your races. The phrase all over the place is not one you want applied to your running, although it’s often been appended to mine over the years. The way to find your sweet spot for powerful and efficient running is by training for it.
This is where training for pace is all important. The confidence and training benefits of completing scheduled work-outs at different training intensities with good technique cannot be under estimated.
Tempo pace training
When we work with runners looking to improve their technique one of the key elements of training that is emphasized is tempo pace running. This just under your aerobic threshold training is brilliant for practicing holding good technique together for sustained periods.
In the first instance we suggest breaking these tempo running sessions into smaller chunks or intervals of 800 to 1000m or 3 to 5 minutes of running depending on the ability level of the athlete. You can even do shorter tempo pace intervals than this of 2 minutes or 400m if you are a slower runner.
Regular readers of this blog will know by now just how important I believe strength training is in developing and sustaining good running technique. The longer you can run with strength the greater the delay of dipping deeply into you cardio reserves and blowing up! Hopefully you can get to the point where you can complete your target distance without this happening to you. Being stronger is a big help.
Executing on race day
So what can you do to make sure you pull it all together on race day to give yourself a good shot at a competitive and fast performance? One clue is to capture your metronomic stride in the warm up, instead of striding faster than goal pace, run your tempo (10 – 15k race pace) pace for three minutes as was discussed in this article by Alex Hutchinson.
The other simple but often overlooked step is to run with a plan to click off very even and slightly conservative lap or kilometer splits. Let the early pace setters go and just focus into getting into a good rhythm, you may find the rabbits coming back to you rapidly in the later stages of the race.
While inconsistent performance can be caused by a number of different factors it’s worth considering changes or variations in running technique as a possible cause.
Written by Brian Martin