Running Drills- By: Jasper Blake

“Drill Sargeant”

By: Jasper Blake
If you have ever thought that running is not a technical sport, spend a day with an Olympic sprinter!  Running can be extremely technical, especially at high end speeds where muscle contraction happens very quickly and good form is essential.
Running drills can serve many purposes from technical development to building strength or working on turnover.  Often they are simply an effective way to warm up before a hard effort.  Drills are only useful if they are consistently practiced and performed correctly.  I strongly recommend seeking the advice of a trained coach to help you incorporate any kind of running drills into your weekly program.
The Basics- ABC’s

Probably the most common running drills are called A’s, B’s and C’s.  If you have ever been to a coached track workout then you are probably familiar with this trio.  Each drill mimics and exaggerates a specific stage in a running stride.  A’s mimic the beginning of the stride where the knee drives forward and up.  B’s are actually a hurdlers drill where the leg follows the same path as in an A but instead of coming straight down, the foot is extended forward as if you were going over a hurdle.  Finally, for C’s, imagine running but instead of driving the knee forward, you kick yourself in the buttocks with your heels.  C’s are used to exaggerate the recovery phase of a running stride.
Strides

I consider strides a drill because they stimulate a desired response in the body to help improve running.  I use strides at the beginning and end of every workout.  A stride is a 60-100m acceleration that builds to nearly full speed by the end.  I will use strides after a 20-30 minute easy jog to do small bursts of intensity prior to a hard workout.  When doing strides focus on form and rhythm while maintaining a high level of composure.  Strides should not feel forced.  The idea is to wake up the nervous system and help you build into the full range of running motion while practicing technique – increasing stride length and increasing cadence.
Strides can also be used during your cool down.  I learned this from Dave Scott Thomas at the University of Guelph.  After a track session we often end the warm down with a series of barefoot strides on the grass.  The main objective is to leave the nervous system with a feeling of running fast rather than running slow.
Barefoot Running

If I had to choose one drill that I feel is most effective, I would undoubtedly choose barefoot running.  This too was a staple when I trained with the University of Guelph.  We finished every run with a series of barefoot strides.  I have also done entire track workouts running barefoot on the inside grass portion of the track.  The primary purpose of barefoot running is to strengthen the smaller supporting muscles in the feet as well as improve proprioception.  Proprioception, in simple terms, refers to the body’s ability to determine where it is in relation to other parts of the body.  Barefoot running heightens the sensory feedback coming into the feet and teaches the foot to react quickly to small surface changes.  I would strongly recommend doing barefoot drills on a soft grassy field that you have scouted for rocks or other hazards such as broken glass.  It is also extremely important to ease into barefoot running.  Too much too early can lead to injury.
The Ethiopian protocol

I once had the privilege of doing a workout with Miruts Yifter.  Miruts was the Olympic gold medalist from 1980 in the 5,000 and 10,000m track events.  He led us through a series of exercises he insisted was a pillar of the Ethiopian running culture.  We spent almost 45 minutes doing calisthenics and coordination type drills like jumping jacks and high leg kicks.  It was like an odd combination of dancing and aerobics.  The basic idea was to warm up the body and, in particular, the legs in every possible way.  These exercises also included a series of dynamic stretching.  Controlled dynamic stretching as opposed to static stretching is a great way to warm up prior to a hard run.  A wise approach would be graduated doses of this kind of warm up as I could barely walk the next day!
Pose Drills

The Pose method of running may be familiar to some of you, but if not, it is definitely worth investigating.  This method incorporates a whole series of drills that support a philosophy of running developed by Dr. Nicholas Romanov.  Essentially, the idea is that instead of pushing off or striding forward we should let gravity do the work and fall from one leg onto the other.  We can move faster and with less energy using gravity than we can by using muscle force.  The drills build on this concept and are designed to teach and enhance the feeling of falling from one foot to the next.  I think the majority of fast runners already do this without thinking about it but if you are someone that struggles with running efficiency then this is a philosophy I would definitely recommend.  For more information you can check out the pose running website at www.posetech.com


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