Overview of Running Drills

The purpose of drills is to increase your biomechanical efficiency (economy of movement) through practice of specific movements as well as strengthening/stretching peripheral muscle groups/fascia/tendons/ligaments. They can be added in the middle or at the end of most runs. Many people find a few drills useful after the warm up but before a track or tempo workout. I like to do them after my weekly easy-moderate runs but never do them after a long run (due to injury risk from fatigue).

My favorites include:

Strides
Strides are simply accelerations to about 5k race pace or slightly faster. They should last 80-150 yards and you should build into your speed as opposed to sprinting from the gun. You can incorporate these during the run and jog 1-2 minutes easy between each stride. You can do them after your run on a track or football field (or beach or parking lot as available) and walk back to your starting point after each. You should run with relaxed shoulders and jaw, high knees, good stride length (but not exaggerated) and good all-around form. 6-10 repetitions 1 or 2x per week on a year-round basis will help you keep the better part of your run speed, according to legendary coach Arthur Lydiard.

Sideways running
Develops lateral strength and helps to keep you properly balanced. These include your glutes and hip flexor, tensor, and abductor. Normal running develops specific forward strength/economy but can neglect lateral strength/economy which may result in hip, knee, ankle, and IT band issues down the road. You simply run sideways and cross your arms across your body in opposition with your first leg. 100 yards per rep.

High knees
Works on efficiency in keeping your knees up, which results in a longer stride. Take very short steps with a fast turnover and bring your knee up as high as is comfortable. Exaggerate the movement but this is not a karate drill. 50 yards per rep.

Fast feet
Similar to the above but the emphasis is on getting your feet moving as fast as possible. Move forward slowly (very short steps) and keep your arm motions under control. You can end this one by turning the last part into a short stride. This develops neuromuscular efficiency and a faster turnover rate. (Your speed is dependent on two things: turnover rate and stride length). 50 yards.

Skipping
This helps develop toe-off strength which is a key component of stride length. Skip just like you did when you were a kid, but keep your arm motions to running form. 100 yards.

Bounding
Bounding is best done on a slight downhill (2-3% grade) and the focus is on a long stride (kick your leg back at the end). Be careful with bounding as it is one of the tougher drills due to the knee impact on downhill as well as being easy to over-stride and strain something. I donít do much of this but itís due to limited hill access. 100 yards.

Ankle-to-butt
Bring your ankle up to your butt before kicking through the front part of your stride. Take small steps forward. This also helps to develop stride length. 50 yards.

Backwards running
Helps strengthen some of the muscles in your lower butt/high hamstrings (periformis) and calves in order to create that balance I discussed earlier. Just run backwards without over-reaching on flat terrain. 50-100 yards.

I typically include 4 sets of 2 drills in my drill sessions but you can vary this according to how much time you have. My favorite routine on my time-limited schedule is to run 30 minutes easy, stretch a bit, then do 2 x sideways, 2 x ankle-butt (50 yards) right into high-knee (50 yards), 2 x skipping, 2-4 x strides with walk-back, then stretch thoroughly. I do this at least once per week except during taper or injury mode.

Your routine should vary somewhat week to week and dependent on what you are weak in, and this is not an exhaustive list.

Marty Gaal