The Workout You're Not Doing: The Form Run

If you've ever played a musical instrument, the idea of working on your technique is usually thought of as something separate from just jamming out. When you rock out and make your family's collective ears bleed (right, Ben?), you're relying on your established technique, sure, but you're not actively focused on getting better at it. I used to practice a guitar technique like 'alternate picking' and then reward myself by just jamming along to a song for a while. It's no coincidence that as my technical skills improved, my improvising/jam out ability sounded much better, too.

Now think about your running for a moment.

Most of us skip right to the jam out session without much technique work to support it. We lace 'em up and “just run”.

And that is totally cool if that's all running is to you, a little jam-out session.

But even for the person who doesn't want to run farther, faster, or with less injury risk, I think you'll enjoy your basic jam-out that much more if your running skill is better.

Here's a great little routine you can practice each time you hop on the treadmill (which is happening WAY too frequently these days, BRRR!). It's designed to make you aware of your body, engage in your environment, and penalize you (a little) for mistakes.


We learn not by succeeding, but by making mistakes.

By putting on a hugely cushioned pair of running shoes, you can't necessarily tell when you are running incorrectly if you didn't know any better.

By doing the following drill with your shoes OFF, you will perceive your environment better and be more likely to make better movement choices.

In other words, you'll FEEL and HEAR your heel crash/thud into the treadmill. A-HA! That is feedback. Stop doing that.

Instead, refine your stride until you are landing softly and quietly. But, make sure you aren't prancing!  (Yes, your heel should touch)

Here's the drill:

  • Start jogging IN PLACE @ while the treadmill is preparing to start.
  • Maintain that exact same sensation in your feet/body as the treadmill roars to a speed of … 1 mph.
  • Run at 1 mph for 1 minute.
  • Then, while maintaining your form, increase the speed to 2 mph.
  • Run at 2 mph for 1 minute. Still have that light-on-the-feet sensation? Still quiet?
  • Continue to increase the speed 1 mph every minute until you can no longer maintain that original sensation of being upright/tall, light on your feet, quick stride rate, etc.

In my experience, things will get tricky between 4-6 mph. Either you will lose your form, or you will fatigue quickly.

**Take your time with this. The goal is to eventually run farther and maintain this form during all of your speeds. Since many of us have coddled our feet with shoes all our lives, our feet may be weak. Be very careful and patient when attempting this drill. Oh, and this is NOT a drill for someone with a current foot or achilles injury.

My general recommendation would be to hang out in the 1-3mph range for a month and just really learn those paces. Feel how your body's aligned (you can't hunch over too well while running in place!), how your feet feel, and how you sound. Before you know it, you'll be humming along at your old paces and feeling incredible.

Again, this is a drill that's great to do in the beginning of a training run because it reinforces the idea of good form.

It's also a great way to recapture good form if you've been running for a while. Simply stop, jog in place, then SLOWLY start drifting forward while maintaining the same sensation underfoot. Gradually ramp back up to your training pace without changing form.