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.

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