Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Running Drills to Make You Stronger and Have More Fun

When you spot a runner who is skipping, bounding, hopping, kicking their legs or otherwise running in an exaggerated way, please don’t panic, laugh or stare. She may simply be doing drills.

As part of my re-building phase, I’ve introduced more drills into my running routine. I'm betting that if I can stick with it, these will help me prevent injury when the training volume increases, or as I try to build the speed I lost when training for Ironman.

These types of drills are often referred to as plyometrics but they’ve been around for a long time under shorter or different names. In addition to the drills I was doing, I was inspired to incorporate a few more after talking to the wife of Aaron Case, a Vancouver based Chiropractor and an awesome runner, and I’ve imported some of them from Aaron’s website at I encourage you to check out more tips on that website.

Incidentally, Aaron and his wife also happen to have a beautiful 8-month old daughter who is likely doing her part in keeping training challenging.

Drills you can do “every” run:

ABCs (video)
ABC’s are three exaggerated leg swings that help with running form and posture. They involve a type of skipping, but kicking and high knee running. Easiest to see it to explain it. A warm up or cool down drill.

Strides (video)
You can do these at the end of every run. They are meant to be fun, fast and frisky. The point is to open up your stride, going fast for about 20-30 seconds and 6-8 repeats. If they tire you or leave you sore, you went too fast so build up gradually.

Leg Swings (video)

Really great for dynamically stretching your hamstrings, quad, inner and outer thigh. They’re much more fun than static stretching and will bring out your inner dancer. I like to do them after a run.

Cross-overs (video)
If you’ve ever done the grapevine in aerobics, you’ll know these. If not, it takes a bit of practice. Make sure to go both directions, and it is meant to improve form.

Backwards Running Drill (video)
The video is worth watching because it is quite funny. But, I’m not laughing. Really. Actually, it’s worth running because I definitely wouldn’t have run backwards this way. I like to throw this in during a run as a little ‘break’ and it is handy if you are near a field or school in which to do it.

In addition to the drills above, I’m also doing the following drills once a week instead of a weight room strength session for the lower body:

Bounding (video)
I do these after a hill workout on a bark mulch or grass surface (gives me extra bounce). They’re powerful. Think gazelle. It’s a very long running stride with exaggerated knee lifts. Bound for 30 yards, rest 1 minute. Do four repetitions. In later sessions, gradually increase the distance to 80 yards.

Skip for 30 yards; rest 1 minute. Do four repetitions. In later sessions, increase the distance to 80 yards. Warm up by doing it with only a toe raise and not a hop.

Split-squat jump (video - stationary split squat)
Start in a lunge position, and jump upward and forward, pushing off the front leg. Land in the lunge position, and repeat continuously for 10 yards. Rest 45 seconds. Do three repetitions, and work up to six. In later sessions, gradually increase the distance to 80 yards

Two-foot ankle hops
Stand up straight, and hop forward for 10 yards, keeping feet together; rest 45 seconds. Do three repetitions, and work up to a maximum of six.

Happy running and have fun with these!

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