This morning, I learned firsthand what a huge difference a slight form adjustment can make on a run. I spent the morning on the track with my team. The workout called for 400s with 60 seconds of rest between each 400. The idea was to do at least 12 400s at 5K pace, which for me is a 2:20 per lap, and to do them until I could no longer hold that pace.
My first 400 was ridiculously slow at 2:29. I was tired and maybe not as warmed up as I should have been, so I pushed forward. The next seven were 2:21, 2:20 or 2:19, which is fine but slower than I’ve been doing my 400s. Before today, I could comfortably hit 2:20 and was often exceeding it. But today, I felt heavy and clunky and tired. It all felt like effort.
After my eighth 400, Jeff, who was coaching today, told me that I swinging my left arm across my body. He told me to focus on swinging up to chest level and then down to the hip, instead of crossing my body. So I did. And suddenly I ran a 2:14 – five seconds faster than anything else I’d done that morning. I didn’t work harder; I just thought about my form.
Then he told me to do it again but not to look at my watch during the lap. (I’ve gotten into the habit of checking my watch at the mid-way point to see how I’m doing.) So I ran one without looking at the watch and did a 2:10! Suddenly this felt like a very different workout than the one I’d started. It wasn’t easy, but I was moving better.
I did the next five at 2:14, 2:15, 2:14, 2:15 and 2:13 – all without looking at my watch at the midway point. Again, I wasn’t working harder. I was just thinking about the motion of my arms. Jeff has told me more than once that proper arm movement would cause my legs to lift more, but I don’t think I really believed that until today. I’m still not certain that I understand it, but I do believe it. The proof is in the results.
It was so much fun to see my progress within the workout. Who knew that such a small form shift could make such a big difference? Maybe I should listen to my coaches more…