Archive for April, 2008

Running Drills

Running drills give us an opportunity to teach cues while speed traininig. These drills are used to break down certain aspects or parts of the whole body of sprinting. Cues such as: ‘step over and drive down’ during a speed drill in practice are used to give an athlete a frame of reference to use to make adjustments to their form while sprinting.

Every time you sprint you should be working on technique. You want your athletes to have proper running technique ingrained in their heads so when it is time to sprint, they can feel when everything is happening smoothly.

Speed training drills are needed to reinforce running mechanics and help technique while also helping your athletes become faster, moer powerful and even stronger.

Acceleration Training Speed Drills

Short Hill Work

This is a great speed drill when you have large groups and you do not need any expensive equipment. Hills can naturally help athletes with their stride frequency and also help promote quick arm action. Also, athletes that tend to rotate a lot at the hips and cross over with a side-to-side running action will have to quickly re-evaluate their flawed running mechanics when doing hill work. If they are running side-to-side, they will not be going anywhere, and will have trouble getting up the hill. Therefore, this short hill work will help improve their straight ahead running.

Hill work is perfect for acceleration development as it puts the athlete in proper acceleration mechanics naturally without any tools or cues. You are bringing the ground up to them as they will be driving out and running in the 45 degree angle to the ground.

Sample Hill Workout

8 x 20 meter hills at 15 degree gradient. Walk back down with a 2 minute rest between each repetition.


If you have a nice set of bleachers or stadium stairs in your area, I suggest you take advantage of them. When performing stadiums for acceleration work, make sure that your athletes are skipping a step so they are running every other step. Running every other step on the bleachers mimics acceleration mechanics similar to short hill work. It is putting the athletes at that 45 degree body angle while they are running the stairs.

If you run up every step and do not skip one in between, your body will be up taller in more of an upright maximum velocity position. Skipping steps is important because maximum velocity work is not the goal of this drill.

Wall Drill

The Wall Drill was covered in detail in last month’s Speed Training Report but here is an overview. Standing parallel to the wall, have the athlete lean forward so they are now at a 45 degree and angle with their hands now supporting them by holding onto the wall (arms now parallel to the ground). The feet should be behind the hips and the athlete should be at, approximately, a 45 degree angle to the ground. The torso should be erect, hips forward, stomach and lower back tight so that one could draw a straight (45 degree) line from the head, through the hips to the ankles.

From this position we implement a marching action. Have the athlete raise the right leg so that the ankle is beneath the hips, toe dorsiflexed. On your command, the athlete will march, alternating legs, for a given number of repetitions. They will finish with their leg in the original starting position.

Partner Assisted – March

Exactly like the Wall Drill except a partner is in the place of the wall.

Have the two partners face each other. The first person leans in the proper acceleration position (45 degree angle), while their partner is holding them in this position at the shoulders. Your athletes toe should be cocked up toward the shin, the ankle is kept up benind the knee, and the right knee is up. Also known on for front side mechanics as triple extension: the position your athlete would be in during acceleration. On the support leg (left leg), have your athlete in triple extension. The left leg will be in a straight line with the hips, spine and head.

The athlete’s partner will be resisting slightly, keeping the working athlete at the desired 45 degree angle. The athlete is going to be marching for 10 steps, forcefully driving the front-side leg down and back. The forward movement will be short in distance with the focus on the driving motion. You want your athlete to be able to feel their feet behind them during these drills so it seems natural when it comes time to accelerate during games.

Face and Chase

This drill is pretty much an extension of the Partner Assisted March drill. This time the ‘marcher’ is running instead of marching, and the partner is providing more resistance. The focus is still on providing force application into the ground.

While slowly moving backwards for about 5 meters, your partner is resisting the movement forward. At this point the partner lets go and releases. The partner that was resisting and now released, will turn and run and try to beat the person they were resisting to a cone at 15 meters.

We have extended these distances out and also turned them into a tag game (Face, Chase and Race).

Various Starting Positions

Instead of bringing the ground up to the athlete to create the 45 degree angle as we did with the hill work, we are now going to bring the athlete down to the ground. Starting with the athlete on the ground, have them perform these drills in different positions. Naturally, your body tries to move as quickly as possible, wanting to get up fast. The best way to do that is to drive out in proper acceleration mechanics without having the athlete think too much about it.

Weaker athletes have an extremely tough time accelerating from a standing or 2 point position but are successful creating the acceleration form from a ground based position. Essentially, we work from the ground up. As our athletes get stronger and better mechanically, we use the more vertical stances for our acceleration work. You would still use the distance parameters of 10-30 meters per run for your sprint workouts when you perform this drill.

Here are some examples of the various starting positions you can use:

– Laying on back
– Push-up ‘Up’ position
– Push-up ‘Down’ position
– On 1 knee (always switch)
– Seated (facing forward)
– Seated (facing Backwards)
– 3 point position
– 4 point position
– Falling start
– Position specific

Med Ball Starts

The athlete starts with both feet shoulder width apart, holding a medicine ball at their chest. Have your athlete provide an explosive chest pass, trying to propel the medicine ball as far as possible. This will cause the athlete to use their legs and drive out. Once the ball is released, your athlete will try and grab the ball and then continue to sprint by the ball for another 15 yards. This is a good exercise for athletes that don’t seem to be going any where their first couple of steps of acceleration and need to become more explosive.

Ball Drop

You can start this drill having the athletes use the various starting positions as described above. The coach stands 10 feet away (this distance can be moved up or back depending on the level of athlete) with a tennis ball in his or her hand. The coach’s arm is at shoulder level held out to the side. The coach then drops the ball and once the athlete sees the ball released, he/she must catch the ball before it bounces twice.

This is a great drill to work on not only acceleration mechanics but also reaction time: an extremely important characteristic in all sports.

Use the speed drills provided for acceleration and make sure that your athletes are getting the most out of them by not sacrificing form in any of the drills.

Patrick Beith is the co-owner of Athletes Acceleration the leader in sports performance information. To discover the secrets to dominant speed, go to and checkout

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Posted by The Running Guy - April 27, 2008 at 7:36 pm

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Strength Train to Win Your Race

Running a few 5K races this summer is an excellent way to challenge yourself. Once you’ve decided to start racing, you should incorporate training runs and cross-training into your regular workout routine. Combine running, strength training, core strength, and other forms of cardio into your routine to improve your performance when race day arrives.

Make your training fun and challenging by tracking your distances and times for each training run. Incorporate indoor and outdoor runs, sprints, hills, and distance to keep training runs interesting. When it’s time to strength train, be sure to work the entire body as opposed to focusing only on your legs. The running motion incorporates upper body, lower body, and core muscle groups and training the entire body will improve your performance.

I found two studies that talked about strength training and running being used together in a training program. In the first study, it was found that explosive strength training improved the 5K time endurance athletes [1]. The second study indicated that endurance athletes could benefit from strength training if they were doing certain activities that required fast-twitch muscle fibers [2].

These studies were done on trained endurance athletes and indicated some positive correlations between strength training and running. Most athletes, beginners and advanced, should benefit from strength training as a cross-training activity to improve 5K time [1], although endurance runners who run 4-6 days per week may not see notable improvement in running performance for longer races [2].

If you have just signed up for one of your first races or you haven’t raced in a long time, you definitely want to start training runs at least 4 weeks before race day (for a 5K). If the race you’ve chosen is a longer than 5K, plan on training at least 8 weeks prior to the race.

You can design your own race training program with a simple calender and a few ideas. As a beginner in moderate physical condition, running a 5K, you can run twice per week and strength train twice per week for the first four weeks. For the second four weeks, include 3 runs in your training regimen and strength train twice per week.

If you have any questions, let me know by sending me an email!

Good Luck!

1. Leena Paavolainen1, Keijo Häkkinen2, Ismo Hämäläinen1, Ari Nummela1, and Heikki Rusko Journal of Applied Physiology Vol. 86, Issue 5, 1527-1533, May 1999 Explosive-strength training improves 5-km running time by improving running economy and muscle power
2. R. C. Hickson, B. A. Dvorak, E. M. Gorostiaga, T. T. Kurowski, and C. Foster J Appl Physiol, Nov 1988; 65: 2285 – 2290 Potential for strength and endurance training to amplify endurance performance

Jessica Dawn is a fitness professional who has been studying health & fitness for over 10 years. In addition to actively participating in fitness, Jessica has a degree in Kinesiology (exercise science) which allows her to understand both the scientific and behavioral aspects of weight loss and fitness.

Jessica Dawn is a leader in teaching proven strategies for reaching health & fitness goals. You can receive a free report, free fitness tools, free video exercise demo’s, and more by signing up for her email list at or

Jessica shows you how to develop a lifestyle of health, vitality, and fitness. She answers the quesions you have about life-long weight control and resolves the roadblocks you may have faced in the past so you can achieve your goals once and for all.

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Posted by The Running Guy - April 19, 2008 at 7:15 pm

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Triathlon Swimming – Help – I Sink Like a Rock! 5 Keys to Swimming Level in the Water

I got an email from a beginner triathlete that went like this: “Can you help me with my triathlon swimming? When I get in the water I sink like a rock and can’t keep myself near the top of the water. Any tips?”

This is a pretty common problem for triathletes struggling with their swimming. It is an important problem to fix, too. The more of your body (low hips and legs) you have to pull through the water, the slower you go and the more energy you use during the swim. Slower and more tired getting out of the water is not a good combination.

If your hips are sinking then you aren’t level in the water and that causes problems. Here are 5 tips on how to teach yourself to swim level in the water during your next triathlon swim.

1. One common misconception is that you need to swim “on top” of the water. The first thing you need to understand is that your goal is not to be “on top” of the water – you can work so hard on pushing your body up that your stroke suffers. Your goal is to be level in the water, with mainly your arms and mouth (during your breathing) out of the water. Swim some without your swim cap so you can feel where the water line hits your head. You want more than half your head to be below the water line – higher than that and you are probably holding your upper body too high, which can cause your hips to drop.

2. Take a big breath. When your lungs are full of air they act like a life preserver and make it easier to keep your whole body higher and level in the water. Use this as your “ballast” that you push to raise your hips (see tip number 3 for more about this). Practice holding your breath during most of your stroke, exhaling quick at the end just as you begin your next big breath.

3. A big part of swimming is just getting comfortable. Practice floating on both your stomach and your back. Practice rolling from your stomach to your back and then back to your stomach. Concentrate on pressing your chest (if you are on your stomach) or your shoulder blades (on your back) into the water. You should notice that your hips pop up level with the rest of your body.

4. Concentrate on your balance during drills. Swim lengths of the pool doing stroke drills where you concentrate on your balance and pressing your chest into the water.

5. Improve your kicking form. Many beginner triathletes kick by bending their legs a lot at the knee – this can definitely cause your hips to sink in the water. You want to stay very long in water, so your kick needs to be from your hips, not your knees. Swim some drills wearing flippers and concentrate on keeping your knees somewhat straight (they can bend, but only slightly). Flippers will also improve flexibility in your ankles, which will further improve your swim stroke. I sometimes imagine that I’m wearing flippers while swimming to improve my kick technique.

If you use these tips during your triathlon swimming training you should see your swim times drop and you should have more energy on the bike when you get out of the water. See my 3 minute swim lesson at Coach-Janet.

Triathlon Coach Janet Wilson is a USAT certified triathlon coach and ACE certified personal trainer. Janet is an accomplished and nationally-ranked amateur triathlete and she coaches triathletes of all skill levels, from a triathlon beginner to Hawaii Ironman qualifiers. To learn more about triathlon training, swim tips, coaching programs or just great tips on how to stay in shape visit her website at

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Posted by The Running Guy - April 12, 2008 at 10:37 am

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How To Choose The Right Half Marathon For You

With literally hundreds and hundreds of half marathon races across the country and around the world to choose from, how do you pick the one to run that’s right for you, particularly if you are a beginner? For most people, the answer is most likely driven by their work and vacation schedules, but it’s a good idea to consider as wide a selection of possible choices before committing to a race.

Especially if you’re a beginner and the only race near your local area is a difficult race designed for experienced runners, you’ll want to consider running your half in another city, to make sure your experience is a positive one. Here’s a few points to consider when choosing your race:


No doubt, this is the number one factor for most half participants in most areas. And it’s usually a good guide for selecting your race, especially for beginning or intermediate runners who don’t want to take on the travel and lodging expenses of running a race in a faraway city.

However, consider additional factors when you’re selecting the location of your race, including the number of participants, the course views and the level of organizational support. Running a race that is well-attended will be an enjoyable experience that will offer plentiful fan support along the course, especially through the difficult later miles and the finish line!

Weather and climate

Because nearly all marathons and half marathon races take place in the fall, winter and spring months, participants usually don’t have to worry about excessive heat during a race. Particularly in Southern climates, race organizers are careful not to schedule their events during the often brutally hot summer months.

But rain, snow flurries and other inclement weather can put a damper (quite literally) on your race, so it’s best to check the average temperatures and rainfall for the area you’re considering for your next half well in advance. This writer has run a couple of events in the rain, which can slow down your time significantly and make the entire event a dreary affair, so the advantages of planning for wet weather (bringing a rain jacket or poncho) are clear.

Also, consider running your half in climates that get little or no rainfall, such as the Southwestern states, where many races also offer beautiful, scenic views all along the course.

Road race or trail race?

Road races are by far the more common variety of running races, but trail races (including 10K, half marathons, full marathons and even ultra-marathons) are rising in popularity in recreational (and especially mountainous) areas across the U.S. It’s important to note, however, that trail races generally attract much more experienced runners and are designed for participants looking for very challenging events.

Trail running calls for different kinds of shoes and gear, which you’ll need to own and have experience running in before you want to consider a trail event. For that reason, a road race is probably a more suitable choice for most runners, unless you feel you have the stamina and commitment to run a trail race.

Elevation changes

This is probably the most difficult element of a half to gauge if you aren’t already familiar with the terrain and the city/area of a race you’re considering running. Some half marathons can have long, steady elevation changes (such as the marathon & half marathon at the Bermuda International Race Weekend, which challenges participants with a steady incline about halfway into the race), while other races feature almost entirely flat race courses.

You can get some idea of elevation changes on race websites, many of which offer both course layout and course elevation maps and diagrams. The best way to get an accurate sense of how “up and down” a particular half marathon is for runners, however, is to call the race organizers and ask to speak with someone who’s actually run the race herself. Be sure to ask about particularly difficult spots or rises in elevation, and recommended ways for runners to tackle them.

“Fun” factor

Another difficult element to figure out until you actually run the race, the “fun” factor can mean several different things: How many people turn out for the race? How many participants take place? Do the race organizers permit “characters” in the race (people running in costume, participants running backwards, etc.)? These can make for some great memories and help take your mind off your run during the race, which is particularly helpful the further you get into a race.

Terrell Johnson is an Atlanta-based writer and runner who has completed several marathons, half-marathons and 10K road races. He runs the website HalfMarathons.Net, which provides information on half marathon events throughout the U.S. and around the world.

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Posted by The Running Guy - April 5, 2008 at 10:05 am

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