There are running drills and then there are functional running drills.
The more competitive and challenging your goals are the more you will want to use functional running drills. What do I mean when I say functional?
Functional drills are movements that mimic or over-emphasize the moves that your body makes as you are running.
An example of a functional running drill would be doing a set of high knees.
When you are running your knees are constantly moving up and down. The higher your knees go the faster you will move. To strengthen your knee muscles and improve your running form while improving your hip, knee and glute activation, the high knee running drill would target all of this making it a great drill for runners!
Reasons to add Running Drills to your Running Routine:
Will improve your form
Prevent injury by strengthening muscles
Increase your speed
Teach you how to be quick on your feet
Promotes a softer landing
Gain more efficiency in your running
When to Perform:
As your warm-up
Tack on a full routine to the front end of your run after a quick warm-up. Some of the moves also work as warm-up material so it can serve you in two ways!
Find a pocket of time once or twice during the week, set your timer for 5-10 minutes and work through a couple of moves wherever you are at. (This is something I like to do when I am cold!)
Where to do running drills:
These moves can really be done anywhere but here are some suggestions!
Some people like using the structured distance of the track. They might choose to do 100 meters of each movement or do each set of drills going the full distance (generally 400 meters) around the track.
If you are coming off of an injury, are new to running, or have had a history of running injuries, then I would highly recommend doing these drills on grass or dirt where your landing will be cushioned underneath you and you will reduce the amount of shock and impact on your body.
How to Perform a Running Drills Circuit:
You don’t have to spend a lot of time on these exercises. You can see the results by only doing these drills for about 5-10 minutes 2 times a week.
I like to choose about 4 movements and perform each drill for 30 seconds, rest and then do another period of 30 seconds and then move onto the next exercise.
With your rest periods in between each drill, it will take you about 6-8 minutes to complete a circuit!
Functional Drill Exercises:
High Knees: lift your knees as high up as possible while moving as fast as possible.
Butt Kicks:Bring your heel up as high as you can towards your bottom and then back down alternating to the opposite heel. Try to move as quickly as possible.
3 High Knees + a Pause: this drill requires you to do 3 high knees and on the third high knee you will pause and keep that knee up near your chest for a moment and then bring it back down and start over with 3 high knees before adding another pause.
Straight leg walking kicks: These drills are great for your hips and your glutes. You will simply be walking but with each step you will pick up your leg, keeping it straight and lift it as high up as possible. Bring it down and take a new step, keeping your leg straight and lifting it up high.
High Knee Skip Hops: more high knees because they are excellent for us runners! You will be doing a high knee but adding in a hop on that standing leg and then repeating on the opposite leg.
Walking lunges: As the name suggests, come down into a lunge position (knee over your ankle) and then back up. Take a step and lunge again with the opposite leg.
Standing running knees - right leg then left leg: Keep one foot in front of you, planted the entire time, and the knee bent. Bring the opposite knee up as high as possible in towards your waist and then back down behind you. Almost as if you are running in place using only one leg. Move as fast as possible. Use your arms as well for this one!
There you have it! A simple and effective set of running drills that you can use during your very next run!
I would say that doing drills will be more important to you the more competitive your running goal is or if you want to improve your running form (which has a multitude of benefits attached to doing so!)