Your Best 10K: 4 Key Techniques to Improve Your Running

A group of people running in the city

By James Heptonstall, adidas Runners London

If you’re tackling your first 10K or wanting to shave some seconds off a personal best, then have a read through some of my top technique training tips below.

A man running 

As a captain of adidas Runners (the London branch!), it’s important for me to improve the runners in our community. Below I’ve broken down four key technique areas that I coach our runners in a lead up to a 10K race: breathing, foot placement, core stability and stride length and cadence. Looking at each element individually, and then bringing them all together in your training, can make you become a better runner and perform better on race day.

1. BREATHING

Graphic Breathing

As runners, we want to maximize the amount of oxygen we inhale so it can be transferred to our working muscles. Many people underuse their diaphragm when breathing and rely on their chest muscles, which can reduce the amount of oxygen you breathe in. The other downside of breathing from your chest is that your intercostal muscles (chest muscles) are smaller and will fatigue more quickly than your diaphragm will. So a simple breathing exercise you can do is to practice breathing from your belly using your diaphragm following these steps:

  • Keep your upper chest and shoulders still
  • Focus on raising your belly as you inhale
  • Lower your belly as you exhale
  • Inhale and exhale through your mouth

Try doing this just before you go for a run. Stand still and go through the exercises and then see if you can introduce it into your breathing while out on the run.

 2. FOOT PLACEMENT 

Graphic Foot Placement

I always focus on the building blocks of running technique with runners, and what better place to start then your foot placement. Each runner has a preferred style when it comes to foot placement; this can be anywhere from heel striking to forefoot running. The important thing is to be comfortable with your technique and make sure you are striking the floor in line with your center of gravity. When working through technique-specific drills, I encourage runners to stay on the forefoot or the balls of their feet as this is where the power transfer happens when running. Working on the balls of your feet also makes us engage our core, which is vital and brings us to our next area…

 3. CORE STABILITY

Graphic Core Stability

A good core is a runner’s best friend. Becoming a better runner isn’t all about upping your mileage, it’s also about working on your core stability to give you a great platform for an efficient and fluid running technique. Throughout any technique drill work I do with the runners, I constantly remind them to “engage their core”. This means keeping an upright posture and looking straight ahead when working through the drills. By doing this, we are trying to minimize any rocking motions in the core so that the legs and arms are working freely around a solid base.

4. STRIDE LENGTH AND CADENCE

Graphic Stride Length and Cadence

To run faster, we simply need to cover the ground quicker. This is done by increasing your stride length and increasing the turnover of your legs. Through drills, you can explore the importance of knee lift that helps drive your stride as well as the importance of a short lever in the back lift that allows a faster pull through of your leg, and therefore a quicker turnover or cadence. To ingrain these motions, I work with small hurdles to increase knee lift and turnover so that you can transfer the motion into a normal stride out.

A typical technical drill session could include:

Running

  • Walking on the balls of the feet (20m) x 2
  • Walking high knees (20m) x 2
  • Jogging high knees (20m) x 2
  • Walking heel lift (20m) x 2
  • Jogging heel lift (20m) x 2
  • Walking heel lift through to high knee (20m) x 2
  • On-the-bounce heel lift through to high knee (20m) x 3
  • Stride outs at 70% (40m) x 2
  • Hurdle rhythm runs (10m) into stride out (20m) x 10

So if you want to improve your 10K performance and run faster, you shouldn’t just focus on mileage and pace. Also, make sure to leave time to work on your running technique. You will see that it really pays off!

Would you like to know the best way to warm up for your 10K run and how to stretch afterwards? Then check out this video:

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