Fun With Running, A Crucial Skill for So Many
By Karen Goeller, CSCS
Published in Technique Magazine in
2003, the Magazine of USAG for Pro Members, and on various gymnastics related
This article is not for reprint without
written permission from the author.
the Gymnastics Drills and Conditioning Books!
Since so many sports, including basketball, baseball, softball, soccer,
gymnastics, and of course track and field, require good running technique,
coaches must concentrate on teaching proper running technique.
Most people and often even athletes and coaches take for granted that if they
can run, they are performing efficiently, but this is often not the case. Even
with professional ball players, corrections can be made with running technique
and\or speed. Running should be analyzed, broken down into smaller parts drills,
and then taught correctly.
Foot alignment, knee lift, heel lift, arm swing, and even where the athlete is
focusing should be trained individually, corrected, and practiced frequently.
Perhaps during training, each portion of the run or the drills\techniques should
be used as a warm up for training or for a more enjoyable experience, as relay
For a relay race each portion\movement of the run can be performed by a
different teammate. Another idea is to have every participant in the race
perform a certain portion or movement of the running technique.
A great contest idea for athletes is to use the arm swing for the run; once the
correct elbow bend\angle and swing (alternate motion of forward and back) is
learned, the number of arm swings per 30 seconds can be timed. Coaches must
watch that the athletes keep their arms bent throughout the swing rather than
bending and straightening with each swing. The "karate chop" motion is
popular and may be a natural movement for some, but it is incorrect. The
participant with the most correct arm swings can be the winner.
With the knee lift motion; once it is learned correctly without impact (marching
in place and marching forward) and then with impact (running in place lifting
knees and running forward lifting knees) the participants can race toward the
finish using the knee lift motion. Of course, if the knees have not been lifted
to at least hip height or even belly button height the knee lift was not
performed correctly and that participant cannot be the winner, especially since
the race was specifically designed in order to practice using the knee lift
motion for correct running technique.
The same race can be performed using the heel lift or actually the heel to
buttocks (kick butt) motion. This motion should be learned separately form the
knee lift motion. Once learned correctly using a march\walk and then a running
in place and running forward motion, have your participant's race while using
the kick buttocks motion. Remember, if the heels do not touch the buttocks each
time, that participant cannot be the winner, especially since the participants
were actually learning and practicing the heel lift for proper running
Once both the knee lift and the heel lift have been learned and practiced, they
can be combined. It takes a great deal of coordination to combine both! It is
easiest explained by stating that the participant must lift one knee (right leg)
and then kick the buttocks with the other foot (left). It is lift knee, kick
butt. And it takes even more coordination to continue toward a finish line
alternating the two techniques! It feels awkward and does take practice.
After the leg motions and arm swing are learned separately, they can be
combined. Perhaps try to combine the knee lift with the arm swing or the heel
lift with the arm swing. Once each leg motion can be combined with the arm
swing, the participant is ready to attempt a sprint toward a finish line using
all of the proper techniques. The coach must constantly observe and make useful
suggestions to the athletes such as lift the knees, opposite arms, and keep the
elbows bent while performing the arm swing.
You see, there is a great deal of learning and careful practice that goes into
the proper running technique and eventually an efficient sprint. Just think of
how many baseball players would be on base safely and how many more football
players would score touchdowns if they ran just a bit faster! And how many more
gymnasts would vault more successfully if every one of them would practice
running technique on a regular basis.
Besides good technique, many athletes need more speed. This is not something
that is improved or learned as proper technique is. And is usually is not
improved within minutes or over night. One sports coach stated that anyone
looking to increase their running speed should run down hill. This will force
the athlete to run faster because gravity is at work. The muscles will be forced
to react quicker, thanks to gravity, and eventually the athlete will be able to
react this quickly on their own. Quicker reaction\movement equals a quicker
run\sprint. The coach must keep the angle of the hill in mind, because if it is
too steep there could be risk of injury.
So go out there and help your athletes perform better by teaching and correcting
running technique. Good luck and may the force be with you!
The running drills mentioned in this article can be found in the book,
"Gymnastics Drills and Conditioning Exercises." It is a training manual
that was written for gymnastics coaches, but is useful to physical education
teachers, dance teachers, and any coach in need of running drills.
The book, Gymnastics Drills and Conditioning Exercises has a running drills
section along with vaulting, bars, dance, and press handstand.
You may also be interested in....
Conditioning Animated E-Books
Gymnastics Drills and Conditioning Book
Handstand Drills and Conditioning Book
Gymnastics Training with Karen Goeller
By Karen M. Goeller, CSCS
Karen Goeller has
been training athletes since 1978. She has an
education that includes training in emergency medicine, physical therapy, and
nutrition. She has held certifications that include NSCA-CSCS, Fitness Trainer,
EMT-D, Nutritional Analysis, and many Gymnastics Certifications among others.
Besides being author of the Gymnastics
Drills and Conditioning books, Karen is the author of the
Swing Set Fitness books. She has also published
journals, training programs, and
articles. Her books are used by fitness
experts, coaches, teachers, and athletes worldwide. Karen has worked for world
famous gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi, owned a gymnastics club for ten years, and
has been featured in several newspapers and on television many times. She offers
sports performance training and private
gymnastics training in NJ. For
more on Karen visit
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