Be drill happy with Mersey Tri’s, Zoe Brunton
Run drills are often pushed aside in triathlon training to make more time for the main set or simply because we don’t know how beneficial they can be. We spend hours in the pool obsessing over swim technique and hammer out hundreds of miles on the bike, but we don’t do the same on foot, even though the gains can be equally advantageous.
There are multiple benefits for triathletes to incorporate run drills into weekly sessions. To progress as a runner, an efficient running technique and a good form is key.
Drills focus on those elements of technique, mechanics, mobility and strength that with practise will deliver improved running.
Individual triathletes need to work on different aspects of their run form, so certain drills will benefit certain people more than others. Irrespective of your level of ability as a triathlete, drills can be tailored. For example, a balance drill can be made harder by performing it with closed eyes whereas a high knees drill can be made easier by slowing down the pace.
Drills engage the muscles that we use for running, develop the movement patterns we adopt when running and allow us to improve our overall efficiency. Greater running efficiency very often equates to an improvement in overall pace.
Many triathletes abide by the “run more to run better” mentality, and while it’s true that we do need to get out and put the miles in, we also should strive to run correctly, efficiently and injury free.
Avoiding injury is key to every triathlete’s goal, and the frequent and effective use of drills in training can target aspects of our running form that potentially put us at risk of injuries and niggles. For example, drills can focus specifically on aspects such as posture, alignment, balance, foot contact and landing, cadence and hip flexion and extension.
Here are two key progressive drills to get you on the right track:
Enhance balance and core stability.
- Perform ankle rotations by standing on one leg, with your other foot just above the ground, engaging the gluteus muscles and looking forwards, not down.
- With the foot in the air, complete 10 ankle rotations one way and 10 the other way.
- Shake out your leg and repeat on the other side.
- Progress by doing it with eyes closed, adding in some arm movement or change the terrain on which it is performed.
- You can also practise at home when you are brushing your teeth, two minutes of balancing practice every morning and night is perfect!
Improve foot contact, posture and cadence.
- I describe the fast feet drill with a “the floor is lava” ideology. It works on the concept of reduced ground contact time and high cadence – the less time spent on the ground, the more efficient you’re running.
- Maintain good upper body posture, shoulders pulled back, arms engaged, and eyes looking forwards.
- Every fifth step, raise one leg into high knee position and hold for two seconds.
- The progression of this drill is to isolate one leg at a time, pick up the cadence or change the terrain on which it is performed. Changing terrain means we engage different muscles so our balance is affected by softer and harder surfaces, and it gives variety to training.
For more information about Mersey Tri, please visit their website.
This was first published in Triathlon Plus Magazine, Spring 2017