Intentional Practice: Running

In a world where it seems easiest to look at someone with a talent and say it was "God Given" I'm here to break the barrier and show that high level performance requires only one thing. Wouldn't you want you or your athlete to latch onto this thing and ride it to the top. What pill could this be? What quick ritual could we do to boost our abilities to gain endowed like abilities? What on earth could be so good? Let me tell you a secret. It's available to everyone, but taken advantage of by few.

Intentional Practice.

The act of practicing something with full effort, optimal feedback, and routine application. It is never practicing a skill lazily. It is always hearing how to improve the skill from a professional source. It is a part of your regular lifestyle.

Now, I could talk on the simple act of intentional practice for this entire post. That is, however, not my goal today. In this post I will talk about a skill that is so universal and needed in all sports. A skill that you will say one individual was "born with" while another person "worked their butt off" for.


For starters, I will admit that all sports take advantage of the genes that an individual has. Simple morphology dictates a person's ability to perform at a top level. Height, limb length, muscle fiber typing, and even eye sight impact this. That being said, in the terms of skill, we are born with three primary abilities: Eating, sleeping, pooping. Running is not one of those.

It is universally accepted that running requires practice. Whether it is conditioning or getting faster, running requires running. Most people understand that running needs practice and they understand that no one is born with the skill to run, yet, once a child has reached the ability to run (at about 3-4 years old) they stop developing that skill. At most we encourage them to run more milage independent of their running skill. Imagine sending your athlete outside with a football and telling them to practice their quarterback skills by throwing routes alone in their yard. At first this will help them figure out the basics of tossing a ball. But eventually they will stagnate without a receiver to catch the ball, a defender rushing them, and a coach helping them improve their skill. Yet we send our kids off on an uncoached hour long trot. And then our athlete remains slow, their knee hurts, and we assume their friend is faster because of a "birth right."Why?

Instead lets look at 4 skills that create a better runner.

1. Arm Drive

A lot of younger athletes have these two things attached to their shoulders. They are called arms. Roughly 15% of power from jumping and sprinting can come from efficient arm drive. It takes more energy to drive the arms, but as a result speed increases. Typically fatigue (tiredness) turns arm drive into shoulder twisting. This is something to avoid as twisting the shoulders/trunk reduces the power that can be created and transfers energy to the side instead of forward where we are running.

2. Knee Drive

The one thing that is harder to do than use your arms to run is driving your knees. By picking the feet up higher, creating more knee flexion (bend), and increasing the stride length you improve speed. This takes more effort, more calories, and will make you more tired. But it makes you faster. Weak and tight hip-flexors can seriously limit the ability to perform at a peak level.

3. Lean

There is only one time when an athlete should have a more vertical chest while running - at top speed during a maximal sprint. What winds up happening is that most athletes convert to a vertical chest run because they are tired and it is easier to run vertical than leaned. But once again, a vertical chest slows them down. Leaning ever so slightly improves forward momentum and changes where our body mass is over our foot strike.

4. Foot Strike

Top level sprinters do not have spikes in the back of their track shoes. Why? Sprinting is done on the balls (front) of the the foot. But watch your athlete after 10 minutes of playing their sport. Where do they strike their foot? Typically a tired athlete heel strikes when they run. It is a more efficient way to run, however, it is a slower way to run. By simply forcing the foot strike to be towards the balls of their feet increases speed and helps with a forward lean.

Watch a runner with "God Given" abilities. I promise you they are using these 4 skills. Now look at the athlete who struggles to keep up speed wise. Are they doing the little things all game to keep up? Typically no.

Intentional practice will trump genetics when genetics never uses intentional practice.

Speaking of intentional practice I will be hosting a camp at D-Bat Wichita Falls where I will help build the running skills of local athletes. If you would like to attend please CLICK HERE and follow the instructions to sign up!


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About Me

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BS, MS - exercise Physiology
EPC - Board Certified Exercise Physiologist

Published Thesis
The impact of three different forms of warm up on performance

The Effects of Glucose Supplementation on Barbell Velocity and Fatiguability in Weightlifting - A pilot study"

The Accute Effects Of Different Squat Intensities on Vertical Jump Performances
The Accute Effects of Different Squat Intensities On Jump Performance

Graduate from Midwestern State University, founder of Endunamoo Barbell Club, and Endunamoo Strength and Conditioning. Working to help athletes physically reach their goals and achieve scholarships while spiritually pouring into as many people as possible on all platforms.