"I'm not a sprinter so why should I waste my time working on good running mechanics? I'm hardly ever moving in a straight line anyway…"
This is a question that stumped me the first time it was asked at one of my clinics. I hadn't really thought about it before. I knew that everyone should work on their mechanics to run faster, that speed was primarily a neuro-muscular skill that could be learned, but I have to admit that this one threw me for a loop.
Doubt suddenly flooded over me. Why did this athlete need to learn to run properly if they spent little time running straight forward? Most running in football, soccer, basketball, lacrosse… almost any sport outside of track and field… is anything but linear. After collecting my thoughts for a second, the reasons became clear.
Basicly it all boils down to this. No matter what sport you play, you will be running in a straight line at some point – and probably more than you think. And having great sprint mechanics is key to helping you during that phase of your game. If you practice drills like a sprinter, your body will automatically enter sprinter mode when you start moving forward.
It doesn't really matter if you are running forward one step, or three steps or 100 yards – you will run faster if your hands, arms, shoulders, feet, knees, head and hips are doing the right things. The more you practice these techniques in practice and drills the more easily your body will fall back into good speed habits.
Let's face it, in the heat of battle, in the middle of a game, you are almost never going to run with perfect sprinting form. But, the closer to perfect your body can be, the faster you will go.
Your goal should be to be able to sprint with unconscious competence – letting your body do the right things naturally, without you having to think about them. You do this by practicing with conscious competence – thinking about proper technique. But, you can't do this consciously when playing, you need to be on auto-pilot for peak performance. Think in practice, compete in games.
Remember too that much of the reasoning behind proper sprint mechanics carries over into lateral speed, reaction and change of direction. You should practice drills to accomplish these aspects of running fast as well to develop all aspects of speed.
So, why should you care about sprint mechanics? Because, when it comes down to it, everyone is a sprinter whenever they want to run at full speed. Developing your technique in controlled situations will carry over into competition and help you reach your full athletic potential.
Tim Alan Kauppinen, or Coach K, has over 20 years experience as an athlete and coach. He has worked with athletes of all ages and abilities in track and field, football, speed training and strength and conditioning. This has given him the privilege and the opportunity to coach athletes who have become conference champions, state champions and Division I college players. Coach K is the author of Uphill Fitness Training and Ultimate Insider Speed Training Secrets. Coach K also publishes a free daily fitness email with current tips on getting stronger, faster and in the best shape of your life. To sign up for this no cost service, visit Coach K's website at http://www.makesyoufast.com