There are many different types of running drills, all of which are geared at trying to improve foot turnover, increase efficiency, and improve running economy. Long, slow runs are really the bread and butter of marathon training, but those slow miles can make you feel sluggish. Leg drills can help to build strength, increase neuromuscular timing, and make you more aware of your running form.
It’s recommended that the drills be done at the end of your workout, when you are already warmed up. Some of these drills can also be used as a dynamic warm-up before you run, but they should not be done at the same intensity as you would do at the end of your run.
Some beneficial drills include forward and backward skipping, A skips and B skips, fast arms, and hopping.
When skipping, skip forward for 20 yards, driving your knees and thighs up until they are parallel to the ground; this is an “A skip.” Then skip backwards for 20 yards.
One variation on the forward skipping, or A skip, is the B skip. During this drill, after driving your knee up, bring your heel towards your buttocks, then extend the knee straight before tapping your foot to the ground. This type of skipping is especially good for neuromuscular timing and coordination.
The fast arms drill can be done while in place by simply driving your arms forward and up. The link between the arms and legs is very important, and by pumping your arms up and down, it will help to trigger your legs to move faster.
Hopping is another great drill, as it’s a type of plyometric activity that can increase leg power, endurance, and strength. With your feet shoulder width apart, take short hops forward with both feet for a distance of 20 yards. As a variation, you can hop from two legs and land on one, and then hop from one foot and land on two; this will assist with balance and muscle timing.
These drills collectively will help to improve leg strength, muscle firing, efficiency, and turnover, all of which are beneficial to marathon runners.
Julie Khan is a physical therapist in the HSS rehabilitation department. She graduated from Columbia University with a masters and doctorate in physical therapy and has her Board Certification in Sports Physical Therapy. Her clinical interests include post-surgical sports-related injuries and running mechanics. An avid runner herself, Julie enjoys rehabilitating runners and helping them get back to their sports safely and even stronger than before. She is a USATF Level 1 Coach as well as a Road Runners Club of America certified coach. She has completed more than 20 half-marathons and seven marathons.