What are Running Drills?
For many of us, running is an innate ability that progressed naturally as we developed during our childhood after hitting milestones like rolling, crawling, and walking. Aside from our natural potential to run, our form, speed, and endurance are aspects that often can be improved upon with technique and practice. If you want to improve your efficiency so that you can run faster for longer, running drills are a must to include in your training programs.
What are running drills?
Running drills are brief exercises that can be done as a warm-up prior to your workout or on race day or after a workout to help dynamically engage your muscles to improve form, movement patterns, and muscle memory. Comparably, this would be like practicing your golf swing at the driving range or taking batting practice before a baseball game. By regularly practicing running drills, you will improve your neural firing pattern and reaction times due to enhanced agility, balance and proprioception, muscular strength, and tendon spring reaction which will ultimately boost your overall power and speed. In addition to being a more efficient runner by practicing running drills, you will also reduce your risk of injury.
Here are 10 different Running Drills you can try:
A skips, also known as skipping with high knees, begin by pushing off the right foot as you drive your left knee up towards the chest with your foot pulled up as your body lifts vertically. Be sure to use your arms in a synchronous swing to help with the drive and momentum of the drill. Land softly on the right foot before switching (or skipping) to the other foot to repeat the exercise as you make your way forward.
B skips mimic A skips with the dynamic knee drive up but then you quickly extend the knee and foot out ahead of you by engaging the glutes and hamstrings, again while you are lifting vertically. As with A skips, pump arms in a synchronous swing to help with the drive and momentum of the drill. The skip repeats before switching quickly to the opposite leg.
Skipping backward is essentially A skips that go backward instead of forward. By pushing off your foot to jump vertically while driving the opposite knee and foot up towards the chest, you will land on the same foot before quickly skipping to the other while pushing backward.
Power skips are a higher intensity A skip. The skillset and form are the same but the goal is to get as high as possible on the drive and lift.
Quick or fast feet is a drill to help shorten your foot-to-ground contact time which will result in improved cadence while also emphasizing a mid-foot landing. Quick foot turnover, not stride length, is the focus. Mimic running with mid-foot landing as you quickly switch from one foot to the other without reaching forward with your foot. As with running, pump your arms by your sides. The forward movement will be slow due to the decreased stride length but the foot turnover will be fast.
High knees are the running version of A skips. The knee and foot are still driven up forcefully towards the chest, as the body remains vertical, but instead of skipping and landing on the same foot before switching to the other foot, you land on the same foot as the knee that is driven up. As in A skips, use your arms to help with the drive and momentum of the drill.
From a standing position, kick your heel toward your butt using your hamstrings to keep the heel in alignment with the glutes while your knee slightly raises forward. Land on the same foot before switching to the other foot in a forward motion. Pump your arms as you would with running.
This drill takes you out of the forward/backward plane to the side-to-side plane. The change engages more of your inner and outer thighs while at the same time developing your coordination. Starting sideways, bring your outside leg and cross it in front of your standing leg. As you land the outside foot, balance on it as you step the back leg out to the side uncrossing the legs. Then bring the leg that crossed over initially and this time step it crossing behind the standing leg. Repeat crossing and uncrossing. This time the arms will swing across and behind the body instead of to the sides of the body. Be sure to do it in both directions.
The focus of bounding is on power and balance. Begin by driving one knee up high towards the chest but emphasize on landing out far ahead of you and then try to stick the landing with that leg. Repeat on the other leg trying to go for higher lifts and longer strides.
Strides are to work on improving speed. Instead of just sprinting as fast as you can, strides are done with increasing speeds over short distances but with the goal of not fatiguing or losing form. Start with a faster than run speed for 20 meters, control your form as you increase the speed for an additional 40-80 meters.
Don’t feel like you have to do all the drills at once. Try 3-4 different drills for 3 repetitions each, 2-3 days a week. Try them over a short distance (usually 20-50 meters) while focusing on the form and walk back to the start to recover before doing the next repetition. Posture is important with head upright and shoulders, hips, and ankles stacked over one another. To promote forward movement, try to lean from the ankles instead of the waist or chest. Don’t forget about your arms, they help with momentum, and when the core is engaged the arms should swing alongside the body and not across the body.
Quality over quantity is key when doing running drills. The focus should be on the quality of movement to improve form as opposed to performing them hastily or rushed. How often are you doing running drills?