This morning I went to a local track to spend some time running in front of my coach so he could be the 185th person to tell me that my glutes don't work. He also wanted to demonstrate some additional drills that will keep moving the Glutes Take Action movement forward (heh).
I got there early and did a short warm-up. The first thing he noticed is that my arms weren't swinging from my shoulder, but instead my shoulders were moving slightly forward and back. He also said that my arm carriage is good, but my hands have some tension in them while I'm running. He gave me a drill to work on this, and it felt incredibly strange (like most drills) but after about a lap I felt things start to settle down.
Now for the bottom half. I've spent a lot of time this summer concentrating while running - not intentionally trying to force changes, but instead focusing on engaging the correct muscles in my butt. The major side effect of this is that other pieces of my form are changing. In the spring, I was very definitely a straight-leg over-striding heel-striker. When I saw Dr. Maggs a month or so ago, I had transitioned to a bent-leg regular-striding heel-striker. And now, a month or so later, I am very definitely in the mid-foot camp, which doesn't mean a whole lot but makes me ridiculously pleased. I've spent zero time trying to change my foot placement on the ground - this has all happened as a by-product of my glutes starting to work. Now, my glutes are still not fully engaged, and I'm still doing a bit of crunching at the waist, but I'm headed in the right direction. We focused for a while this morning on working on being fully upright and keeping my shoulders back and gazing straight ahead (all things we should all be doing anyway).
After a bit of this, it was time to take the shoes off. He showed me three different progressive drills done standing still, and then we add some drills/strides. And on one of the last strides, suddenly everything clicked and the sun came out from behind the clouds. I was landing on my forefoot and leaning from the ankles and keeping my chest up and it felt like real, actual, amazing, good running, for just a minute.
And then I put my shoes back on and it mostly fell apart. We did some more drills on the track - all short strides - but I could kind of fuzzily start to see how it all fits together. And on the last drill, I did 20 yards or so of the drill and then 20 yards of running and just once, I was able to hold that amazing perfect forefoot form together with my shoes on for almost the entire 20 yards before I went back to my crunchy midfoot sleepy-glute ways.
The intent of the drills is not to change my form hugely overnight - that's actually the worst thing that could happen. The intent is to spend time focusing on activating and firing one tiny set of muscles 100% correctly. Over time, my body will adapt to this and small changes will occur that will hopefully keep moving me closer towards good form and running injury-free. Which is the point of all of this, because no matter how cranky you think I am now, it's nothing compared to when I can't run.
Tell me about drills. Do you actually do them? Which drills do you do? Are B skips really hard for everyone?