I know this blog is on a skiing website, and I know that this is the time of year when a lot of readers (if I have a lot of readers) might be looking for some technique drills to get ready for the upcoming ski season. I don’t think this is the post for them (but it might be. You’ve come this far, so why not keep reading?)
This is a post about technique drills for running. It is not a post I ever thought I would write, as I have always been skeptical of any attempt to dictate running form. My experience over the past couple of months at my running club, however, has changed my mind. In particular, this week I considered not going to the weekly track workout, as I have been nursing a hip injury. But I went. I felt my hip a little during the warm-up, and then we moved into drills. By the end of the drills, I had no pain, and I had less pain and soreness after the workout than I have over the past week after easy runs.
I have also noticed that the drills we do get me ready to run fast during a track workout better than any other warm-up routine I have ever tried. I don’t know that it actually makes me race faster, but it makes speedwork go smoother.
Now, I am not going to claim to be an expert in this area after a couple of months. Indeed, as my running club is Dutch, I don’t understand a word of what my coach says when explaining a drill, let alone know what if any justification he has for it. But I have gleaned a few key principles:
1. Accept that speed drills will take some time. Our typical routine is 15 minutes jog, 5 minutes active stretch, 20 minutes of drills, then intervals. Part of this is because we do a lot of drills, and part is because we need to take adequate recovery.
2. Vary the drills in a session, and intersperse 100 meters accelerations. We might do two variants of a quickness drill, then a strength drill, and then run 100 meters one or two times, and then repeat with new drills. The reason this seems to work for me is that a drill teaches a muscle to activate in a certain way, and then running fast allows your brain to connect this muscle use to running in a concrete way.
3. Vary the drills from session to session. This is emphatically not about getting really good at certain drills. The goal is to use a drill to teach your body something about running – how to get quick turnover, or more float in your stride, or better posture. By using drills that are accessible but not too familiar, you maximize the chances that you will teach your body about running and not about performing drills.
Okay, so what are the drills? High knees running at different tempos, single leg lops, double leg hops, bounds, running forward or backward with straight knees, and then each of these with the resistance of either a medicine ball held in your hands or a partner provide resistance with an elastic band. One of my favorites was grabbing the bar at the top of a fence and holding your legs up off the ground (so you were almost sitting on the fence, but touching only with your hands) for 30 seconds, then right into a 100 meter stride. This is a great way to get your transverse abdominis to activate while you are running. As I said in the three principles, you mix something that practices high tempo, something that practices balance and coordination, and something that practices force generation. You do enough strides and accelerations to connect it to running. And then you fly through your workout.
There might even be something for skiers to learn here. My favorite drills have always been the ones that lead in a clear way into skiing with good form…