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Running Drills

Improve your Triathlon Run

Running drills are exercises that help you improve your triathlon running performance.

There are many benefits from doing drills and elite triathletes will be doing them on a regular basis.

Why Do Running Drills?

Drills have many benefits:

  1. Improve running technique
  2. Enhanced awareness of body movement
  3. Postural & muscular control through range of movement
  4. Co-ordination during run-related movement patterns
  5. Improve the fatigue resistance of the muscles that maintain good posture – in particular hip and pelvis stability.
  6. Improve strength and impact tolerance of the foot and lower leg.

We’ve included running drills that focus on different areas:

  1. Technique and fatigue resistance – low level impact
  2. Posture control - Drills using hurdles
  3. Reactive strength of the lower limb (these are more dynamic and explosive)
  4. Take-off and landing exercises as preparation for plyometrics

1) Running Drills For Technique And Fatigue Resistance

These need to be done regularly but they can be included into your warm up before a training session or as part of a conditioning-specific session.

Perform the drills on a good surface - either a running track, gym-type floor or grass that is firm and smooth.

Concentrate on maintaining good, relaxed posture throughout all the drills. Keep your chest up, your back straight and engage your abdominal muscles to keep your hips stable. You want your hips to stay facing forwards and not move up and down on each side as your legs move.

The video clip below illustrates these drills. Start off doing two repeats of each drill per session over about 20 metres and work your way up to doing four repeats of each drill over a slightly longer distance (up to about 40 metres). 

2) Posture Control - Running Drills Using Hurdles

These drills put increased emphasis on hip control and stability. They are technically a bit more demanding. You want the hurdles to be at a height that you can comfortably straddle, but start off with them at a low height and bring them up to a height just below your inner leg length as you improve.

The video clip below demonstrates these drills. Start off with two repeats over 5 hurdles and build this up to going over 8 hurdles four times for each exercise.

3) Reactive Strength Of The Lower Limb (these are more dynamic and explosive)

These drills improve your ability to maintain proprioceptive control of the foot and lower limb as well developing achilles tendon strength. They also help reduce injury risk by building up your tolerance of impact in preparation for faster running or increased mileage. They also help maximise the utilization of elastic energy during running.

You should build up your lower leg and foot strength before doing these dynamic drills.

Also build up the number of foot contacts gradually so that your lower legs and feet have time to adapt and strengthen. You can also gradually build up how ‘explosively’ you do these drills.

Start off with 15 to 20 foot contacts for each exercise, for one repeat. Then build up to two repeats and build the foot contacts up to 30 to 40. Aim to increase the foot contacts by no more than 5 every four sessions.

The following video illustrates these drills.

4)Take-Off And Landing Exercises As Preparation For Plyometrics

Plyometrics aren’t running drills but to prepare you for doing this type of training there are some drills you can include in a drill session.

These exercises should be done with an emphasis on controlling the landing – in particular the foot, knee and hip position.

Start off with the exercises in the video below.

Aim to do these exercises for 10 contacts/jumps over 10 - 15 metres two or three times and progress gradually up to 20 contacts/jumps per session.

You can progress the Plyobox jumps to include jumps off the box to a controlled landing with the knees bent to 90 degrees. Further progression can then be made to include single-legged jumps both onto and off the box.

plyo box jump

You should do these when you are fairly fresh initially but can include them at the end of a conditioning session to make it more challenging when you have mastered the single-legged progressions in a controlled manner.

With a lot of these drills the emphasis is on helping you to maintain good posture whilst running. This should improve your triathlon performance by making you more efficient. To make sure that you translate the gains from these drills into your running, put a conscious effort into doing the following when you run:

  1. Lower back and hip position: Hips facing forwards and stable – not bobbing up and down on either side as you run.
  2. Straight back, relaxed shoulders
  3. Foot placement and contact: Land with your foot under your body not in front (where your foot would act as a brake). Keep foot contact light and quick.
  4. Arm action: Relaxed but actively swinging forwards and back. Your legs tend to want to do what your arms do, so swinging your arms out to the sides tends to put pressure on your lower body to stop that movement happening in your legs. Also, if you are tiring when running, then consciously using your arms can help keep your leg drive and knee lift going.
  5. Head position:
  6. Don't tip your head too far back or forwards - people often end up looking at the ground in front of them, so make sure you are looking straight ahead.
  7. Foot and ankle alignment: Keep the foot and ankle strong, avoiding any collapsing inwards of the foot on ground contact. Also ensure feet are not pointing too much inwards or out to the sides (no ducks or pigeons…).

As your strength and technique improve through doing these running drills you will start to be able to run well without having to think about what you are doing.

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