Why Form Drills Are Beneficial For Endurance Runners

Jannine Myers

Every year, around January through March, I get to see some amazing young athletes training in my neighborhood. They come down from mainland Japan to compete in regional-level tournaments, and fortunately for me, they take up residence in a sports hotel right around the corner from my house.

One thing these athletes all have in common, regardless of the sport they play, is the daily habit of getting out for an early morning run. I love to see them run; they all seem so light and limber on their feet. This year I enjoyed watching one team in particular, a group of young high-school girls. Either before or after their morning runs, they would spend about 10 minutes working on form drills. Watching them do their drills really fascinated me, not because I’ve never seen athletes do drills before, but because this was a group of girls who looked exceptionally agile and fit.

As an endurance runner, I don’t spend a great deal of time doing form drills, and I suspect the same is probably true for most endurance runners. I think we tend to underestimate the benefit of practicing drills, which is why I want to share the following opinions of three top endurance athletes who never train without incorporating form drills into their workouts.

Meb Keflezighi, for example, explains how form drills – which are essentially exaggerated and varied versions of your normal running gait – can improve stride length and/or stride rate. He does a short set of drills almost every day, believing that they help him to maintain good posture during longer runs, as well as deter cramping and tightness. Check out one of his form videos for a demonstration of the types of drills he does:

Dathan Ritzenheim is another great runner who encourages the regular practice of form drills. In his video below he explains that from drills are old-school sprinting drills, and the reason endurance runners should do them is to develop the same excellent and efficient running mechanics as sprinters.

And here’s what Jason Fitzgerald has to say about form drills:

They can:

  • Improve the communication between your brain and legs – helping you become more efficient
  • Strengthen not only the muscles, but the specific joints (like the ankle) needed for powerful, fast running
  • Improve coordination, agility, balance, and proprioception – helping you become a better athlete
  • Serve as a great warm-up before challenging workouts or races

Check out his entire post on the benefits of form drills, as well as a video demonstration here.

If you don’t think you have time to do form drills, try taking Meb’s advice; he says you’d be better off to run one mile less than what you have planned for the day, and spend the extra time doing drills. According to him, and Dathan and Jason (and probably many other elites), the pay-off is worth it!

 

Meb’s Strength Exercises – Part II

Jannine Myers

Following on from my previous post, Meb’s Strength Exercises – Part I, here is one more video demonstration of a set of eight easy strength exercises that you can easily fit in to your training routine. Alternate them with the exercises in Part 1, and try to do 10 to 20 repetitions of each exercise. The key to most of these exercises is making sure you resist during the exertion part of the movement, and holding for one or two seconds at the top of every contraction. Some of these exercises can be made more difficult with the use of a resistance band or an ankle weight, and you will need an exercise ball for some of the exercises.

[FYI, sorry for the quality of the video recording – had to ask my 12 year old to do it!]

Meb’s Strength Exercises – Part I

Jannine Myers

I read Meb Keflezighi’s book a few months ago; it’s called Meb For Mortals, and it covers what Meb believes are the key components of successful marathon training. One of the chapters is devoted to strength training and Meb shares why he believes it’s one of the most important things a runner should do. Like Meb, I also believe that strength training is critical, and especially for females since we are more prone to osteoporosis than men.

I think one of the main reasons that many female runners don’t do much strength training is because they’re reluctant to spend additional time – outside of running – working out at the gym. That’s why I like Meb’s approach to strength training; he chooses to do exercises that a) are most beneficial for running efficiency, injury and age prevention, and fat loss, b) can be done at home, in minimal time, and c) require minimal, if any, equipment. Strength training for runners does not have to involve pushing multiple sets of heavy weights; on the contrary, a few daily calisthenic-type exercises is all that’s needed.

To demonstrate what a “brief” daily strength routine might look like, I’ll show you some of Meb’s exercises in the videos below; keep in mind that you would need to do at least 10 to 20 repetitions of each exercise shown.

Check out next week’s post for Meb’s Strength Exercises – Part II

30/30/30 Strength Endurance Workout

Jannine Myers

Several weeks ago I made a spontaneous decision (after returning home from a WOOT run on Mt. Ishikawa) to register for the Kunigami 19k Trail Race later this year. I was still feeling the “high” from having run some tough trails on Mt. Ishikawa and I felt motivated and pumped to do the Kunigami race. Now, a few weeks later and no longer on that high, I’m feeling a little panicked! I have never run the Kunigami trails before and from what some of our WOOT members have said about them, I’m feeling “pretty bloody” scared!

WHAT was I thinking? I’m way behind in my training; I’ve been averaging 3 to 4 runs a week over the summer break, and my longest run has been around 12 miles (which incidentally, was last week, and I only managed to run 10 of them before the heat and humidity forced me to walk/run the last 2 miles home). On top of that, very few of my runs have been on trail! So, with that in mind, and the intimidating fact that some of my close running friends are well ahead of me in terms of being race-ready, I’ve changed up my runs a little to at least partially prepare me for race-day.

If you’re in the same boat, then check out this strength/endurance workout that I recently built into my weekly training plan. It’s what I call my 30/30/30 workout: a 30-minute run, followed by a 30-minute progressive stair workout, followed by another 30-minute run.

The concept: 1. to exhaust my legs, then continue running so that I learn to endure under tiring conditions, and 2. to build strength.

The workout:

1. Run 30 minutes at an easy pace – run to a decent set of stairs that you will use for the strength portion of your workout. If you don’t know a good 30-minute route to and from the stairs, then simply start your run at the location of the stairs, and either do an out-and-back (15 minutes each way), or run small loops near the stairs for a total of 30 minutes. Lucky for me, I know a couple of great 30-minute routes from my house to the stairs that I use.

2. Get straight into a 30-minute progressive stair workout, divided into three 10-minute segments. Each segment consists of 8 minutes of non-stop up-and-down stair exercises, followed by 2 minute walk/rest recoveries, and each segment gets progressively harder. By the time you have completed all three sets of exercises, your legs should feel pretty heavy and fatigued.

Segment 1: Single step up as fast as you can, and walk back down. Catch your breath as you walk back down and be ready to turn around and run back up as soon as you reach the bottom. No stopping until you reach 8 minutes. Take a 2 minute walk/rest break, them move straight into the second set of exercises.

Segment 2: Jog up and jog down. Alternate between single and double steps on the way up and take slow, single steps back down. The key with this second set is to pace yourself so that you can jog up and down for the full 8 minutes without stopping. Take another 2 minute walk/rest break and begin the final set of exercises.

Segment 3: Walk/lunge up (every 3rd stair), and lateral-jog back down. As you walk/lunge up the stairs, use your arms as leverage to propel you upwards. On the way down, do a lateral jog on one side and switch sides at the halfway point. Do not take a break when you reach the bottom; turn around and immediately start walk/lunging back up. This final set is where you will be tested; your quads, glutes, and hamstrings should start to feel really fatigued by this point, but don’t give up – keep going. When 8 minutes is up, take a final 2-minute walk/rest break (or a little longer if you need it).

3. Now that your legs are heavy and tired, start your 30 minute run back home (or finish with an out-and-back 30-minute run, or 30-minutes of loop-running near the stairs). There are a couple of routes I can choose for my run back home, one of which is mostly flat and the other which includes a couple of short but steep hills, as well as a set of stairs. I could opt for the mostly flat route, but since my goal is to improve stamina and endurance, I take the hilly route back. Ultimately, I hope to eventually produce an adaptation that will enable me to keep running when my muscles feel depleted of strength and energy.

So that’s the workout, and to help you out, I’ve also included a video clip that demonstrates the stair exercises. Also, this workout is completely versatile and can be easily modified; you can shorten the length of running time, and/or the length of time on each stair exercise, and you can even limit the number of stairs to just one or two levels.

https://vimeo.com/136584117

[Don’t be fooled – the workout may look easy, but you’ll be surprised at how tiring it actually is]

A few final comments and tips:

  • Do not pause your garmin during the entire 90-minute workout; push yourself to keep moving the entire time.
  • Take regular sips of sports drink; it’s still really hot and humid and you’ll struggle to complete this workout without water and electrolytes.
  • Because each set of stair exercises is different, various muscle sets are being used. You’ll strengthen your quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, abductors, adductors, and core.
  • In addition to building strength and endurance, the HIIT-style training on the stairs (heart rate goes up with intense bursts of energy, and goes down with short recoveries), means that your body will become more efficient at fat-burning.

No Time For Abs? You Sure About That?

Jannine Myers

I posted a 20-minute ab routine a couple of months ago, and since then I have received feedback from some of you indicating that it’s still a struggle to make time for abdominal exercises. I understand that struggle, since I too spend most mornings rushing to get my workout finished so that I can get started on my never-ending “to-do” list. But thank goodness I’m a big believer that staying fit doesn’t need to be dependent on an all-or-nothing approach; I truly believe that you can still get results by doing shorter intermittent workouts throughout the day.

With that said, I’ve posted below a few of my favorite abdominal exercises that I sometimes do when I’m short on time. If you do these exercises in succession (just follow along with the videos), you’ll be done in approximately 7 minutes – that’s it! The key to making these exercises work for you however, is to really get in tune with your body as you work through each exercise, and make sure that you do each one with slow and controlled movements; do not hurry, and do not simply go through the motions. If you start to feel a “good” little burn as you work through each exercise, you’re on the right track.

As you will see, these videos are far from professional – my 11 year old daughter recorded and cued me :)

 

 

 

 

 

20-Minute Ab Challenge

Jannine Myers

Here’s a 20-minute ab challenge for you ladies. Why? Three reasons:

1. I took this challenge in another Facebook group I belong to, and since I know WOOT members are always up for a challenge, I figured you’d enjoy this too. The original workout is a little longer and slightly harder, but you should still feel a good burn with this modified version.

2. I have a couple of give-aways for the first two ladies who successfully complete this challenge and post a comment below. 

P1060926

A WOOT tumbler and WOOT headband

This is the last WOOT tumbler and headband I have left, so if you want them you know what to do!

A Hammer drink flask and sample Hammer products

A Hammer drink flask and sample Hammer products

This may sound like a shameless plug to get you to try Hammer products, but if you haven’t yet tried them, they really are a great product for endurance athletes. You can read more about Hammer Nutrition here.

3. Abdominal strength contributes to a strong core, enabling us to resist fatigue and run longer with good form, hence the overall result is improved performance. And be honest, how often do you devote time to abdominal/overall strength training? It should warrant some of your time and attention each week.

This challenge should take you just 20 minutes; it’s one set of 4 exercises, and each set is done 4 times. Each exercise is demonstrated below, and if you are careful not to race through the exercises, you’ll find that each set should take you approximately 5 minutes and that’s including a short 30 to 60 second rest at the end of each set.

Are you ready? You’ll need a light set of weights, a swiss ball, and something steady to hold on to (I used a chair and had my 11 year old daughter sit in it to weight it down).

Do the exercises in the following order:

1. Plank Side Rotation – 10 each side

 

2. Swiss Ball Leg Raises – x 10

 

3.  Swiss Ball Knees to Chest x 10

 

4. One leg weighted lower ab crunch x 15

Now go again, 3 more times!