Do you ever notice how some kids run like the wind-and others like they were knee high in mud?
A lot of coaches think that running style is inherited and there’s not much you can do other than to get in better shape. So coaches in youth sports have their athletes run and run and run.
They are wrong on both accounts. First, there is a lot kids can do to learn to run with better technique. And second, by doing a lot of slow running incorrectly, kids learn to run slowly incorrectly. And worse, they end up hating to run.
In this article I’ll point out some common mistakes kids make on technique and how to correct it. Then I’ll provide some tips on how kids should train to run faster.
Here are four common mistakes kids (and adults) make when they run.
1) Over extending the lead foot. This is in an effort to try to cover more ground. The result though is the athlete continually stops and starts which is very inefficient.
The best cure is to place the foot directly under the hips instead of extending forward. This will result in a much faster and smoother turn over of the legs.
2) Another big mistake is leaning forward at the waist. This prevents efficient use of the leg muscles. It also leads to the athletes running on their heels instead of the forefoot.
To correct this, have the athlete stand tall; ears, shoulders, hips and ankles in line. The knees are slightly bent. From this position, the athlete will lean forward at the ankles so that the heels are barely touching the ground.
This is the angle they should run at, and also where the feet should strike the ground. Have them begin running from this position and maintain the forward lean from the ankles for 20 to 50 yards.
3) A lot of athletes waste energy by swinging their arms or bobbing their head when they run. The previous drill will help with the head position.
To teach the arm swing have the athletes practice “hip to pit”. The hold their arms at ninety degree angles and swing them from the shoulders. The hands will swing from the back pocket up to the hips. Perform some slowly, then increase speed. Finally, add it to the previous drill with the forward lean.
4) The fourth and final fault is trying to push off the leg for distance. They think that by pushing off hard, they will cover more distance. Unfortunately, what happens is their foot stays on the ground for too long.
Teach your athletes to run with a very quick lift of the foot. As soon as the forefoot touches the ground, the heels will lift up towards the hips. The foot will swing forward and touch the ground directly under the hips.
By spending five to ten minutes working on these drills and running technique your athletes will get faster without having to waste a lot of time with long slow runs.
Here are some ways to apply running conditioning to your workouts.
1) Keep distances short. Twenty to fifty yards at the most.
2) Have athletes run at percentages. Easy, medium, fast for younger kids. Older athletes can go at percentages; 70, 80, 90, etc. Athletes should not run at 100%. they should always have a little in reserve.
3) Encourage athletes to always run relaxed at every speed.
4) When their form goes or they are exhausted stop and let them rest. Continually running when tired or with poor form will lead to injuries. It will not make them tougher or faster.
5) Sport athletes need to have a slightly greater knee bend than track athletes. Sport athletes need to be able to accelerate, stop and change direction quickly. Keeping the knees bent will allow them to respond much faster.
In conclusion, running well is technique dominated just like dribbling a ball or shooting a basket. Spend some time teaching it during your workouts and you’ll have a much faster team…and more wins!