I had a session on Latrigg, near Keswick, yesterday with two of my athletes. The core of the session was to work on downhill and uphill technique.
To start, and to warm up, we ran to near the top of the hill. I was able to observe their running styles from behind (as I tried to keep up) and was pleased to see two quite neutral styles.
We started the downhill session on a gentle gravel path. I just observed to begin with. My “model” for downhill running is to have relaxed arms and shoulders; the body in a straight, upright position, leaning slightly forward from the hips; feet landing under the centre of gravity; fast feet; looking forward quite far.
I had them run down whilst I shouted forwards and backwards, to get them to lean differently and note how this felt. The feedback was that leaning back felt like braking and forwards felt quicker – which is what I expected. Using this I had them run down several times, increasingly quickly. They both needed encouragement to relax their arms, but both improved rapidly.
Next we moved to a slightly steeper, but still easy, grass slope. Both maintained their new form and managed to relax their arms and turn over their legs quicker.
Then we moved up a little to a slightly steeper part of the slope. Here we were looking at moving the feet faster over the steeper section to maintain control. Again, with just a little practice they both got the hang of this. I had them observe each other, so that they could self coach when I wasn’t there.
Finally, we move to a rougher section with quite deep grass (about 4 inches). They both showed that they had taken on board many of the tweaks to their style. The deep grass was enough to make it hard to judge foot placement, but they both looked quite confident after their first tries.
We switched to looking at uphill technique. I had them run up the same deep grass slope. Both of their arm movements locked back into their normal style. One had an almost stationary left arm, the other had an elbows out style.
We spent 5 minutes practicing an arm drill where one stood behind the other with palms where the elbows should go during a normal swing. The “runner” tried to hit the palms on the rear drive of the elbows. This worked very well for both.
The next run up they both had much neater arm movements.
The uphill “model” is upright; leaning slightly forward; shortened strides so the feet land under the centre of gravity; use the arms to control cadence.
After a couple of goes an a fairly short hill, both had got the hang of this and we stopped.
We had to get back to the car, so we ran hard off the hill. The improvement in the descending confidence was marked, and very satisfying both to me and them.
This was a very rewarding coaching session. Both athletes took on board all my coaching points and implemented them well into their running styles. They observed each other, so that they can carry on self coaching when I am not there.
Next steps are to get them to video their running styles after a while, to confirm that they are incorporating the new style pointers.