Whether you’re training for the mile, an ultramarathon, or anything in between, including some basic running-specific drills as part of your weekly routine can serve you well in a few ways. There are a few ways to incorporate drills into your training schedule, depending on what you want to get out of them. First, they can be included as part of a dynamic warmup (at slower speeds) to help you get ready to run. In this instance, slow them down and literally just go through the motions. Next, as a standalone set after an easy run, drills will help to promote good running mechanics by improving neuromuscular coordination, promoting an efficient footstrike, encouraging a quicker cadence, and reducing contact time with the ground. Finally, when used as part of your warmup for a speed workout or race, they’ll get the right muscles firing for the faster running to follow.
Before doing the following routine, I recommend warming up with at least 5 to 20 minutes of easy jogging to loosen up your legs. Perform these drills in succession, with 30–60 seconds of rest between each one. You should be sweating and have an elevated heart rate by the end of the routine.
This routine will take you between 5–10 minutes. One of the main objectives of these drills is to improve coordination, so it may be necessary to walk through the drills the first few times you perform them before progressing to full speed. Perform this routine a few times a week to realize its benefits. As with everything else, consistency is key!
Why: A Skips help develop lower-leg strength while encouraging knee lift and promoting an efficient midfoot to forefoot strike.
How: Skip forward, lifting your lead knee to waist height while keeping your back leg straight as you come off your toe. Continue moving forward in this manner, striking the ground with your midfoot or forefoot and swinging your arms in unison with your lead leg. Perform two 30-meter reps, progressing to 50-meter reps once you build strength and coordination.
Why: The Carioca drill engages the glutes, abductors, and hips while improving lateral mobility, stability, and coordination.
How: Standing upright, face forward and begin moving laterally to the right, leading right your right leg. Swing your left leg in front of the right leg. Continue moving the lead (right) leg in that same lateral direction with the trail (left) leg now crossing behind the lead leg. Continue moving to the right in this manner, with your left leg alternating between swinging in front of you and crossing behind you, for 20 yards. Then, flip directions and go the opposite way, leading with the left leg and trailing with the right. Maintain a stable torso throughout and keep your arms out to the side as you cover ground.
Why: Butt Kicks engage the hamstrings while promoting quick turnover.
How: Using short strides, almost as if you were running in place, lift your knees slightly and try to bring your heel directly under your butt — not behind — with each stride. Alternate legs rapidly, focusing on executing with a quick turnover. Perform two 15-meter reps, progressing to 30-meter reps as your coordination improves.
Why: Straight-Leg Runs promote a midfoot to forefoot strike, while encouraging quick turnover and improving coordination.
How: Keeping your legs straight and your ankles dorsiflexed (toes pointing upward), run forward, landing on your midfoot while not allowing your feet to come too high off the ground. Keep your torso straight, and focus on executing with a quick turnover. Perform two 50-meter reps, progressing to 4 as you build coordination.
Why: High Knees gets your calves, glutes, and hamstrings firing while promoting knee lift and encouraging rapid turnover.
How: Running in place, take fast, powerful strides, lifting your knees to waist level while landing lightly on the balls of your feet. Perform one 15-second set, progressing to 2–3 sets with 15 seconds of rest in between as coordination improves.
Why: Bounding helps strengthen all the muscles in your lower legs while also improving power and explosiveness.
How: Exaggerating the running stride, launch yourself forward off your left leg, driving your right knee up to waist level while keeping your back (left) leg straight. Aim for 1 second of “hang time” before landing softly on the ball of your right foot. When your foot hits the ground, launch yourself forward again in the same manner. Perform two 30-meter reps, progressing to 50-meter reps as you build strength and coordination. For added variety and a greater challenge, perform Bounding on a gradual incline.
Why: Incorporating some backward running into your drill routine can help improve your ability to cover ground in front of you more quickly and with enhanced efficiency.
How: Run backward for 50 yards as part of a comprehensive drill routine. Remember to “run tall” and keep your core engaged while remaining in the sagittal plane and employing quick turnover. By pushing off your forefoot to run backward, the glutes and upper hamstrings lead the way, and get stronger as a result. Do two to four backward runs with 30 seconds of standing recovery between repetitions.