Yesterday Fish & did a workout that ended with a set of strides and drills. While we were doing a set of butt-kicks Fish turned to me and said “Ugh, I hate drills…why do we do them anyway?!?”
This made me think. Sure, I have a general idea why drills are a good idea – they get your muscles warmed up, maybe they are supposed to help with form, they make you look *super* cool, all that’s good right? But I honestly didn’t have a very solid answer for her. I’ve always enjoyed doing drills ( & I just can’t get enough of the confuzzled looks that I get when I do weird runner drills in the park before workouts…) so I just do them. But that’s really not a good way to go about training. If you don’t know why you’re doing something, it’s really tough to do it right!
After some reading, these are the top reasons that I found for doing drills as part of your warm-up and training:
1) Pre-race or workout warm-up:
Drills are an effective method of hitting each of the three recommended components of a dynamic warmup: 1) cardio, 2) neuromuscular activation, and 3) dynamic stretching
- Drills help with the whole muscle temp up, heart rate up, blood flow to the muscles up thing. Plus, you’re activating muscles you might not use on an easy pre-race jog but will likely be using during an all-out effort during a race/workout, while hurdling dogs, strollers, and small children at the start of a fun-run, or while weaving your way over hill & dale on a cross-country course.
- Going through a set up drills gives your body a chance to practice coordinating the neuromuscular connection for each of those movements. This practice reinforces the correct muscle activation, getting your body ready to perform the movements smoothly during actual running.
- Dynamic stretching. Static stretching has its place (mainly after your workout if you’re doing things that require fast, forceful muscle action), but dynamic stretching is ideal before a hard, fast effort. Drills can be perfect for this!
2) Cool-down/as extra stuff during regular practice:
- Strengthening. You can find plenty of drills that will leave your hip flexors, core, glutes, calves, and hamstrings sore the next day, especially if you’ve just been doing easy running. This strength from drills transfers over to faster running and hills.
- Neuromuscular/coordination magic. Ok, not actually magic but it’s pretty awesome 🙂 First, drills allow you to practice activating muscles that you might miss during running, such as your glutes. And guess what – your running form (and other muscles) will thank you! Second, drills give you a chance to slow down or isolate running movements and practice them over, and over , and over. You’re essentially taking pieces of running form and exaggerating and isolating each piece. The more you practice these movements, the smoother and more efficient that they get – and this transfers over to your running. There’s some great examples of drills for improving your running coordination here. You can also consciously focus on parts of your form that might be lacking – such as posture, a fast turnover, or stabilization.
So now we know WHY we are doing all these goofy looking drills, hurrah!! And, if some old geezer/obnoxious high school kid/concerned citizen walks by and asks if you’re practicing for cheer-leading try-outs/trying to twerk/got a bee stuck in your shorts, you can tell them “heck, no, I’m doing awesome-sauce running drills” and give them some compelling reasons for why they should join you for some running drill fun 😉