Thanks to everyone that came out to North Brooklyn Runners' Beginner & Drills Clinic on July 15th, and thanks to Shawn and Karina for giving us all some great training advice! If you missed it, here's Karina's notes from the clinic!
Drills for Distance Runners: Training Neuromuscular Pathways
Most of us are training for longer distance road running, whether we are trying to set a new half marathon PR or running for the fun of it. Adding up those miles, we are constantly developing our aerobic system – how well our body can use oxygen.
But there is another component to running that doesn’t usually get a lot of attention – the neuromuscular system. A few signs that you need to work on your neuromuscular fitness: you feel sluggish in speed workouts, you feel weak running uphill, or your breathing is under control during tempo runs, but your legs feel heavy. Sound familiar?
The neuromuscular system refers to the channels of communication between the brain and muscles. A primary goal of neuromuscular training is to develop new (and better!) connection to the muscles involved in running by practicing the components of efficient running form. This helps us as runners in all sorts of ways.
- Practice makes permanent. It has been said that practice makes perfect, but that isn’t quite true. Actually, practice makes permanent. In that case, we should really say: perfect practice makes perfect. When we do drills, we exaggerate motions of an efficient running form in order to develop those neural pathways. It will help send the necessary signals to the muscles that need to fire to maintain that good form. Practicing good form through drills will build the neuromuscular foundation for good form in the rest of our training.
- Resisting Fatigue. Training our neuromuscular system helps us run more efficiently and keep that good form even as we tire during a race or a long run.
- Get fast. You need to be able to move fast to run fast. Drills train our feet to move quickly, without all the demands of an interval workout on the track. Sprinting itself is a neuromuscular workout (no surprise why these drills come from sprinters!), but we can practice quickness through drills while still focusing our training to the specific demands on longer distance racing.
- Build strength and coordination. Drills help develop muscles in your feet and lower legs, improving agility and power. Greater strength and mobility may help us resist injury from overuse and poor form.
Dynamic Warm up and Running Drill Progression:
The best time to do most running drills is when you are warming up for a run, particularly before any kind of high intensity effort. You can also do drills as a cool down from an easy effort. Something important to remember: practice makes permanent. If you are too tired to do these drills with proper form, you will actually be defeating the purpose of the workout! Once you notice that you’re not able to maintain proper form, it is time to stop.
+ Knees to Chest
+ Walking quad stretch
+ Cross leg hamstring stretch
+ Walking stretch lunge
+ Arms circle back, knees up to chest
2. Form Drills
+ A Skips
+ High knees
+ Butt kicks
+ Quick feet