Some years back, I was attending a certification course, and the coach that was teaching it had everyone walk outside and told us all to sprint. 

We were in a parking lot, and I’m always conscious of running on hard surfaces (its hell on the joints), so I accelerated into the sprint slowly, and then sprinted back. 

The coach looked at everyone, and then made two groups. 

There must have been about 40 people, and about 20 people got put into group one, and then the remaining 20 in group 2. 


He paused, and I don’t know it was for dramatic effect, for questions, or if forget what he about to say, but in that pause someone asked, 


And his response was completely deadpan, 


This coach was not a nasty guy at all, and he fit the mold of the super motivational football coach, so to hear him say this was hysterical to the rest of us. The other half of us burst out laughing, while the first group looked utterly sad. 

He then launched into a speech about crawling before you can walk, and walking before you can run, and he got them cheered up. 

Regardless though, his point remained. When he started demonstrating running mechanics, the entire group 1 could NOT run. At least not correctly. They flailed their arms, crash landed every step, dragged their feet, and as he pointed out various details of their mechanics, they realized that running, something they had largely just assumed that people could automatically do and do well, they couldn’t do it correctly at all. 

That brings me to my point. In yesterday’s email, I talked about hill sprints, but I neglected an imperative point

CAN you actually sprint? 

So let us cover that

An Overview of Running Mechanics

Running and Sprinting are skills, understand that first. Like any skill, it can be trained and improved. 

To begin with, the first principle is EFFICIENCY. 

Running and sprinting should be efficient. If you are trying to improve how you run/sprint, the point is the maximization of your movement economy. Keep this first principe in mind. All forms and certifications that assess gait and improve running gait are based around the Efficiency principle. 

Tips for Efficient Running

Starting from the bottom up

-Your foot should strike with the forefoot. You do not heel strike when sprinting. You are basically “pulling” at the ground and then driving off it. 

-your feet should be underneath you when you sprint. You are not “reaching” with the foot. Faster steps=faster run. Do NOT worry about stride length. Its very common for people to overstride thinking they’ll be quicker, when in reality this is less efficient. 

 -Your feet should run a in relatively straight LINE. AN easy way to do this is run along a crack on a sidewalk, or a the line of track, or any kind of marker that keeps you putting one foot precisely inline with the other. This inline running will immediately show you if you are dragging or swing your feet out

-after striking the ground, do NOT kick the heel back behind you. Most people inadvertently do “butt kicks” where they kick their heels back and up. You can see children do this where their legs flail behind them. You exchange feet as fast as you can FORWARD. 

-you want to drive your steps through your knees and hips. If you’ve ever done “high knees” its a similar motion. 

-your hips should not be swaying side to side. Neither should you be overly twisting in your torso. Nor should your shoulder be shaking. If this is happening you need to work on sprint mechanics from a non-moving position 

-your arms determine your speed. Drive the elbows like pistons, with the fingers together. Imagine your hands are like knives, and you are going cut through the air. Your arms should be relatively perpendicular, going from to shoulder height to waist height and back to shoulder height

-Do not run “upright”. True sprinting you actually lean forward and feel like you are almost falling. This does not mean hunch over, but rather don’t try to stand up board straight and expect to go fast. Lean forward with your chest up, and go 

-don’t clench your jaw, bob your head, or hold your breath. Keep your eyes on the finish line, and keep your face relaxed. 

For a good pop culture example, Daniel Craig (of James Bond fame) is in fact a very proficient runner. If you watch this video of him (speed up to about 1 minute in) he demonstrates excellent sprinting technique. 

And lastly, do not try to sprint at full speed from a deadstop. Use a flying start, meaning you go from jog to run to sprint.  As your sprinting ability to improves, you can practice starting from a deadstop. But in the beginning, flying starts are safer

Questions, let me know, 

Talk again soon,