Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Get Faster with Foot Skills and Drills!

As I mentioned in my last post, this year my focus has shifted back to running for the season in order to chase my Boston dream and a marathon PR (or two!).  With this shift in focus, my husband (my coach for 2015!) and I sat down, put our coach hats on, and brainstormed how I need to approach this season.  What can we start working on NOW to get me faster come May?  Well beyond just pure strength work (which is a huge part of coach Anthony’s plan for me) and functional strength to help avoid injuries…. FOOT SKILLS AND DRILLS! 

Think about this quote from Joe Friel:  “Besides reducing vertical oscillation, running with a higher cadence means the foot spends less time in contact with the ground. That means running faster. Until your foot comes off the ground you aren’t going any place. It’s like an anchor.”  

Beyond just increasing cadence, foot skill and drills can help with posture and form, a lighter landing, a bouncier landing, powerful forward leg drive, and better overall efficiency.  By incorporating drills into your training, you will be able to better recruit muscles AND you will be less injury prone.  Imagine having proper form and being more efficient during that last push of your big race…you can by simply adding just a few minutes to your training routine.  Why wouldn’t you give up 10-15minutes every few days if it will translate to FREE SPEED on race day?! Added bonus: you will have better form and you may even look a bit more composed in that finisher photo!

So what foot skills can runners utilize to become faster and more efficient?  I’m so glad you asked! ;)

1.    Jump Rope
Jumping rope benefits runners in so many ways!  Jumping rope successfully requires good posture and quick reactions which translate straight to running form and reaction times.  Runners also learn to land light on their feet and to more optimally distribute the load of their body landing through jumping rope.  Pick up the speed and jumping rope can lead to increased cadence!

2.    The Dot Drill
FOOT SPEED!  As runners,if we have mighty hamstrings and they are well balanced with our quads, and our core is powerful and stable that’s fantastic, BUT if we are lacking (and overlooking) foot speed then this is a great place to make some serious gains in running speed.  The dot drill increases runners foot speed and reaction times.  To get a little more out of the drill a band can be placed around the legs for some extra resistance.

3.    High Knees
There is a reason high knees are so popular among runners.  Sprinters to Marathoners can gain a lot from adding high knees to their warm-up routine.  What don’t high knees teach?!  You will work on increasing your knee lift which will help increase your stride length along with teaching a powerful and efficient forward leg drive as well as a bouncier ground strike.  High knees teach all of this while also increasing the strength and endurance of the quad and hip flexor.  No wonder this is such a popular drill among runners and coaches!

4.    Butt Kicks
This is another one that is tried and true.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a dynamic warm-up routine that doesn’t include both high knees and butt kicks and there’s a reason for that!  Butt kicks improve leg turnover by and train the hamstrings to contract with more force during the foot strike portion of the running stride.  This drill will strengthen your hamstrings and teach them to move your lower leg faster by increasing the fast twitch response in your hamstrings.

5.    Grapevines (carioca)
Grapevines are fun, but beyond just being a fun way to warm-up, they help with foot speed, coordination, stabilization, and lateral leg strength (a key to injury prevention!). 

These are just a few of my favorite foot skills/drills that can be added to your warm-up if they aren’t already a part of it.  Remember when you would rather just run out the door and skip the warm-up that by working on your running form, proper muscle recruitment, and efficiency you are gaining free speed on race day!  Other drills to try:  A skips, B skips, side-to-side skips, and ankling. 

Still have a few minutes that you can commit to training throughout the week and don’t want to waste it on junk miles?  Another great addition to your routine is to add power drills AFTER an EASY run! 

Complete 50m of each of these drills with a 50m recovery jog or walk between each of them:  Bounding/strides, running with a focus on high knees, skipping, 50-100m sprint. 

Not feeling the power drills? Want to take it inside?  Add 10-15minutes of plyometrics to your routine post run a 1-2x per week.  Why plyometrics? Plyometrics train your muscles to contract more quickly which in turn produces more power, which equates to you running faster!!

Here are some of my favorite plyometrics: switch lunges, bench/stair taps, box jumps, and single leg hops.  Start slow by doing a circuit two times through with 2-3 moves.  Complete the circuit twice per week and add one move each week until you are doing a circuit of 6 moves 2-3x through.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Change of Plans!! (Our real 2015 race schedule)

So, after we took lots of time to plan the “perfect” race season, the Challenge New Albany race was cancelled.  So we were back to the drawing board.  The thing is, this race getting cancelled got me to thinking.  I realized that I REALLY want to run the Boston Marathon and I don’t want to give up on that goal.  I “BQ’d” (3:34:11) at the Marine Corps Marathon in October 2013 and then anxiously awaited to hear if I got into Boston 2015, only to find out that my “BQ” was 13 seconds too slow…. 0.5seconds/mile!! I was crushed.

Long story short is that I still want to race a couple of triathlons this coming season, but I really want to focus my energy on running and try to BQ.  I can't bear the thought of just letting this goal slip away.  So, I am shifting my focus 100% to prep for marathon training while doing the best I can to maintain some tri fitness.  

I will use the next 8 weeks to build my base in preparation for 18 weeks of marathon training.  These weeks will be focused on building my running fitness through “easy” runs.  Basically, I will be slowly building weekly mileage with very little intensity in order to safely adapt my body to the stress of marathon training.  During this transitional period, my training will also consist of strength training, yoga, short drill focused swims to maintain my feel for the water, and some easy spins.   My real focus is on running with a hope to maintain as much tri fitness as possible without doing anything detrimental to my marathon training. 

So, what’s my race season going to look like?  Well, I am super excited for 2015!  Here’s my plan:

            March 15 – Rock ‘n Roll DC Half Marathon (B race)
    Goal: Test my fitness, have fun, and boost my confidence!

            May 17 – Cleveland Marathon  (A++ Race!)
                        Goal #1: “BQ” by 2 minutes (3:33)
                        Goal #2: Sub 3:30 (REACH GOAL!)
                        Goal #3: 3:25 (SUPER SCARY REACH GOAL!)

            June 28 – Tavern Sprint Tri  (B race)
                        Goal: HAVE FUN! & Push myself

            July 27 – Cleveland Oly Tri (A/B Race)
                        Goal: PR, quick run, HAVE FUN!

            Sept 13 – Challenge Cedar Point 70.3??????
This is UP IN THE AIR.  Anthony will be racing this and I will race if and only if I am feeling really strong and healthy in June and I had a solid BQ in Cleveland!

            October 18 – Columbus Marathon
                    Goal: Dependent on Cleveland Marathon results...
Note: I am hoping to share this starting line with my BFF for her first marathon!!

Woah!  I just put a BIG goal out there… yes, my primary goal is a BQ, but a sub 3:30 marathon is a big goal.  It’s a scary goal.  It’s an exciting goal!  It’s a goal I can’t stop thinking about and so I won’t stop working for it. I’m excited. My legs are excited.  My body is ready.  Two years ago, I thought Boston was simply a dream, but that didn’t keep me from working towards it and that hard work paid off and I landed me a “BQ!”  That BQ wasn’t quite enough to get me to Boston in 2015, but it was enough to remind me to never stop chasing my dreams! 

While I focus on running this coming season, Anthony will be having an epic tri season and chasing some PRs!  Here's what his season looks like:
            May 3: Monticelloman Oly Tri (B race)
            May 31: Raleigh 70.3 (A+ race)
            June?: Fun “C” Sprint Tri (maybe Tavern, maybe something else)
            July 27: Cleveland Oly Tri (A race)
            Sept 13: Challenge Cedar Point 70.3 (A race)

So the Nelson’s will be spending a lot of time in Ohio this Spring/Summer! :) Looking forward to a great season for both of us as we chase greatness.