Getting better at golf can be a difficult task, especially if you're just an occasional hacker or didn't grow up with a driver in your hands like Tiger Woods. For me, I grew up golfing as a kid but now only play just enough to be mediocre at best. Running consumes the bulk of my "free" time so sadly all of the talent I had back in the day is slowly slipping away.
Golf is one of those sports that for some, the swing comes naturally, while for others, who look like they're trying to chop down trees, can be painful. There is a lot of technique that is involved in golf and it's not something that most people can pick up quickly. Years of practice and repetition is essential to develop an automatic and effective neuromuscular response.......(big talk for not sucking).
There is a lot that is happening in the body when you swing a club and things to consider such as grip, head position, stance, coordination, alignment, core movement, hand/eye mechanics, not to mention a variety of different "types" of shots you can make.
The biggest lesson that I've learned from golf, is that it's often little adjustments to your swing that can make a big difference. Small changes to how you're holding the club for example can take a nasty slice and make it......well less nasty......maybe even straight!
For those who have taken up golf as an adult, it can be overwhelming with how much you have to think about when you stand over the ball. This is one of the biggest problems newbies have, as they just get flooded with everything they have to remember.
A good golf pro knows that focusing on one thing at a time is the key to success. You can't expect to completely master all of the pieces of the swing right away, so typically you work on one component at a time. You're not going to learn how to put backspin on the ball at your first lesson when you can't even hit the stupid thing.
So what does this have to do with running!? Great question!
The same principles apply to becoming a better runner. There is a lot of technique happening in the running stride and we're constantly forging neuromuscular patterns every time we lace up and head out the door. The difference in golf however is that you get immediate feedback (miss the ball), while in running it's not always as obvious. It may manifest as an injury or you may just be running well below your potential.
Below I'm going tee off 4 concepts that runners can learn from golfers!
Small Adjustments make a big difference.
Just like I mentioned above about making small adjustments in golf, the same goes for your stride. It's way too hard....and a bad idea to be honest, to try and completely overhaul your running stride all at once. There's way too much to focus on at one time and if you don't make gradual alterations, you run the risk of injury when they're too drastic. Your body needs time to adapt and learn new patterns and because of the high repetitiveness of running, focusing on one area at a time is wise.
The main areas I see that most people need work on are posture and foot strike. These both encompass alot, but here are a couple quick adjustments to make:
Posture- Most of us have bad posture and spend a lot of time sitting during the day. This weakness translates across to the running stride and affects your effectiveness dramatically. A good first adjustment to make is using the 6 inch rule. Run like you're 6 inches taller than you actually are. If you're 5'6.....congratulations, as soon as you start running you're now 6 foot tall. (No more short jokes :-) )
By using this easy visual queue, a lot of the right posture you're looking for in the stride will automatically come together.
Foot Strike - Ideally we want to have our feet landing mid-foot, directly below our hips. In doing so we're reducing impact and setting up the start of an efficient stride. For many runners the tendency is to land heel first and over-stride, which create resistance and a breaking effect when landing.
By working on taking shorter/quicker strides and feeling where your foot is hitting, you're on your way to start making some improvement.
Video Tip - Cadence is also an excellent way to improve your foot strike. Check out this video for more info:
Focus On 1 Thing At A Time
In addition to making small adjustments to the running stride, it's important to keep things simple and only focus on one thing at a time. Trying to fix everything all at once is really tough and your chance of success is reduced.
Just like in golf, if you can't even hit the ball every time you swing the club, you should probably work on your coordination first, before you try and learn some fancy cut shot......(trust me it's a thing)
Your best plan is to start with your biggest opportunity for improvement and then take a slow and patient approach to working on it......which leads us to the next tip perfectly:
A powerful tool that you can use to improve your running stride is video. Often what you think you're doing and what you're actually doing when you run is completely different. Watching yourself run on video can quickly point out some areas that you will want to focus on, even if you're not trained at assessing the running gait.
Look at your posture, foot strike and any obvious things that stand out. By using video on a regular basis you can monitor your progress over time and see the improvements you're making.
It's also helpful to watch other people run and take observe what their stride looks like. Take note of what looks good, and anything you can learn by watching others.
You don't need a fancy camera......your smartphone should work great.....unless you're still rocking a Motorolla Flip Phone.......in which case you have bigger problems.
Repetition, Repetition, Repetition
Just like golfers that hit hundreds of balls on the driving range in order to work on their swing, we as runners also need to take the same approach. It takes time to make changes to our running stride, because it is such an imprinted and automatic movement for all of us.
Making changes to how you run takes time. It's kinda like if I told you from now on you need to start writing with your other hand, it will take time. You couldn't make the change over night (at least not effectively) and you wouldn't want to.
Use running drills such as the ABC's (see video below) to help train the proper mechanics and do them at least once per week to see results.
What is the one thing you would like to change about your running stride? Comment below!
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