Every year, around January through March, I get to see some amazing young athletes training in my neighborhood. They come down from mainland Japan to compete in regional-level tournaments, and fortunately for me, they take up residence in a sports hotel right around the corner from my house.
One thing these athletes all have in common, regardless of the sport they play, is the daily habit of getting out for an early morning run. I love to see them run; they all seem so light and limber on their feet. This year I enjoyed watching one team in particular, a group of young high-school girls. Either before or after their morning runs, they would spend about 10 minutes working on form drills. Watching them do their drills really fascinated me, not because I’ve never seen athletes do drills before, but because this was a group of girls who looked exceptionally agile and fit.
As an endurance runner, I don’t spend a great deal of time doing form drills, and I suspect the same is probably true for most endurance runners. I think we tend to underestimate the benefit of practicing drills, which is why I want to share the following opinions of three top endurance athletes who never train without incorporating form drills into their workouts.
Meb Keflezighi, for example, explains how form drills – which are essentially exaggerated and varied versions of your normal running gait – can improve stride length and/or stride rate. He does a short set of drills almost every day, believing that they help him to maintain good posture during longer runs, as well as deter cramping and tightness. Check out one of his form videos for a demonstration of the types of drills he does:
Dathan Ritzenheim is another great runner who encourages the regular practice of form drills. In his video below he explains that from drills are old-school sprinting drills, and the reason endurance runners should do them is to develop the same excellent and efficient running mechanics as sprinters.
And here’s what Jason Fitzgerald has to say about form drills:
- Improve the communication between your brain and legs – helping you become more efficient
- Strengthen not only the muscles, but the specific joints (like the ankle) needed for powerful, fast running
- Improve coordination, agility, balance, and proprioception – helping you become a better athlete
- Serve as a great warm-up before challenging workouts or races
Check out his entire post on the benefits of form drills, as well as a video demonstration here.
If you don’t think you have time to do form drills, try taking Meb’s advice; he says you’d be better off to run one mile less than what you have planned for the day, and spend the extra time doing drills. According to him, and Dathan and Jason (and probably many other elites), the pay-off is worth it!