Running can be polarizing—some people love it; others hate it. The most common reasons for shunning running are: it’s boring, you feel slow, or you get injured. All of these are valid. (Seriously, who wants to slog through a bunch of slow, snooze-fest miles just to end up with a bum knee?) But the solution to them is simple: Improve your running form.
“Once you learn how to properly run, how to plant your feet, and how to conserve energy, running isn’t miserable,” says Andia Winslow, a sports performance coach, master certified fitness professional, and professional athlete. “You get faster, you get more out of it, and you can go farther without getting injured, so it’s a hell of a lot more fun.”
We tapped Winslow to create some basic running drills to help you perfect your form and make running fun again. Not only will you learn proper technique, but the moves can also be used as your actual workout. Once you start seeing improvement, you’ll be hooked. Ready to fall in love with running?
How to use this list:
Perform each move below for 25 yards or about 30 seconds (refresher: 1 yard equals 3 feet or one giant step). If you’re not on a track (most outdoor tracks are 440 yards), use a GPS-based running app or simply estimate by using the length of one block.
To create your own workout, choose 5 to 7 of your favorite drills, perform each for 25 yards, jog or walk back to start between drills, and complete 3 to 5 sets. Or try the short but highly effective workout Winslow created at the end of this article.
You’re probably already familiar with this move; you just want to put a little extra pep in your step. Stand up straight and engage core. Draw right knee up as far as hip flexibility will allow (try to at least get your thigh parallel to the ground) as you lift up onto ball of left foot. Keep right foot flexed so your knee doesn’t collapse when you land. Maintain a straight back and chest without leaning back. Switch legs and repeat while staying on balls of feet and pumping arms like you do when you run. Do this in place and then progress to walking forward.
Make it harder: Run forward with short, very quick steps.
Stand tall with core engaged. Bend right knee to send right heel back to butt, keeping right foot flexed and lifting onto ball of left foot. If you can’t quite tap butt, go as far as you can until you get stronger and more flexible. Switch legs and repeat. Remember to pump arms as they help dictate where your legs go. You can try this in place or walk forward.
Make it harder: Run forward while kicking.
Stand tall with core engaged and feet more than hip-width apart. Rise onto balls of feet. Using inner thigh, push off with right leg to take a big side step to the left, landing on left foot. Allow right leg to follow and then push off with right leg again. At the same time, swing arms up and overhead (like you’re making a snow angel). Continue to repeat in one direction for 25 yards or around 30 seconds. Then switch directions to engage opposite leg.
Remember skipping around as a kid? This is pretty much the same thing. Start by standing tall with core engaged. Lift right knee and rise up onto ball of left foot. Switch legs and repeat. Continue to repeat faster each time while pumping your arms like you would while running. Stay on balls of feet. The emphasis is on speed.
Stand with core engaged. Lift right knee as high as possible (the goal is to get thigh parallel to ground) and rise up onto ball of left foot. With knee still raised, skip a step forward with left foot. Quickly switch legs and repeat while pumping arms. Stay on the balls of your feet and listen to the rhythm (it should sound consistent). If it sounds muffled, you might be letting one of your heels drop.
Stand tall with core engaged. Rise up onto balls of feet. Lift left knee as high as possible toward chest and lower foot back down. Then lift same knee up and allow hip to open (so knee moves out to left) and then lower. Repeat on right leg while pumping arms (this will come naturally). The move will help open your hips to improve your stride.
Straight Leg Bound
Stand tall with core engaged so you don’t pitch backward. Lift right leg straight up as you rise onto ball of left foot. Lower onto ball of right foot as you lift left leg straight out. Continue to switch legs as you run forward with straight legs on the balls of your feet and pump arms. As flexibility increases, try to get leg higher without leaning back. You don’t want to look like a drum major here!
This one is all about coordination. Stand tall with core engaged and arms at side. Staying on balls of feet, step left root in front of right. Step right foot to the right. Step left foot behind right. Step right foot to the right. Continue to repeat as you twist your hips and dance your arms (kind of like a grapevine dance step). Your core and obliques will create torque and open up hips. If you’re intimidated or find this tricky, try repeating this in your head: “Step in front, step behind, step in front, step behind,” and so on. Repeat for 25 yards or 30 seconds in one direction and then reverse, leading with the opposite foot.
Whereas quick skip was all about speed, this one is all about power. Lift right knee, bound up, and skip forward. Repeat with left knee while pumping arms. Aim for a 90-degree angle with your ankle, knee, hip, and elbow. When you lift off the ground, drive off ball of foot with torso erect and eyes and chest up. Your body line will follow your eye line. Swing elbows back to get more leg power. (Imagine there’s a brick wall behind you and you’re trying to knock the bricks out with your elbows.)
This is like an exaggerated run. Similar to the move above, you want to generate power and forward momentum with every step. Just like you would when you run, lift right knee and use left foot to launch into the air. Land on ball of right foot and repeat with left knee as you pump arms. When you’re in the air, hold the position to maintain the angles.
Stand facing a wall, table, or railing for support. Lift off left heel and dangle right leg to create freedom. Swing right leg out to right then across to left while keeping hips square for 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat on opposite side. As you get stronger and more flexible, you’ll be able to swing leg higher. The rhythm is like a swing set or a metronome.