Running, Triathlon
April 2, 2019

Running Drills: 4 Great Drills That Improve Your Cadence

Coach demonstrating running drills

I first started doing running drills around the age of six.

I’d just joined my first athletic club, Calliope, and was happily going along to the running track each week to “train”.

I say “train” because it was more play than training. In between messing around, we heaved the shot put and discus as far as our little arms could manage. We jumped high and we jumped long. We also ran a bit!

Because I was small and didn’t have much power, I immediately gravitated more towards the running side of athletics than the field events. I especially liked the longer runs and eventually moved into cross country and triathlon.

In these early days, the coaching I was given focused more on the development of technical skills than on mileage and intensity.

Yes, we did some running in the form of short reps and relays, but more often than not, we were lined up to practise running drills over and over again.

I didn’t realise it at the time but running drills would play a part in my training for the next 20+ years.

What Are Running Drills?

Running Drills are dynamic exercises that help to ingrain proper movement patterns into your muscle memory. Once ingrained, these movements become automatic and help to improve a number of things including:

  • The strength of your muscles, tendons and joints (like the ankle) needed for powerful and fast running.
  • Communication between your brain and legs.
  • Coordination.
  • Agility
  • Balance.
  • Proprioception.

They’re also great when used as part of a dynamic warm-up before harder workouts and races.

Where Can You Do Running Drills?

Running drills can essentially be done anywhere there is room. Depending on the specific drills you are doing, you only need 20 – 50m of unobstructed space like on a field, footpath, road or track.

Depending on how sensitive you are to looking foolish in front of others, you may also want to find an area with limited spectators.

A disclaimer: Running drills can look a little silly, especially if you are not a particularly coordinated individual.

A word of advice, don’t let vanity be the reason you don’t do your running drills and reap the benefits they have to offer.

What Running Drills Can You Do?

There are many different running drills you can do to enhance your technical skills.

In this post, I am going to share four that are great for improving your running cadence. In future posts, I plan to share more that help in improving stride length and other parts of an efficient running style.

1. Butt Kick Drill

Butt kicks help to improve cadence and improve quadriceps and hip flexor flexibility.

2. A-Skip Drill

A-skip reinforces midfoot landing and helps to improve cadence and coordination.

3. Fast Feet

Fast Feet helps to improve your cadence while emphasising proper foot placement and short ground contact time.

4. High Knees

High knees help to reinforce midfoot landing, improve cadence and hamstring flexibility.

Concentrate As You Perform Your Drills

Because running drills are a skill, you need to pay careful attention to the way you perform each drill. If you rush the movement and perform them with poor form, you only reinforce bad habits.

Take your time with each drill and if you find yourself losing form, stop and rest before continuing on with good form.

Here are some points you want to think about as you perform the drills.

  • Think of your head as your anchor. You want your chin parallel to the ground with your head nicely stacked over your shoulders; your shoulders stacked over your hips and your hips stacked over your ankles.
  • Aim for a subtle forward lean from the ankles while avoiding a bend at the waist. Think tall!
  • Drive your arms without rocking your shoulders.
  • Avoid sitting back on your hips.

How Many Drills Should You Do?

Choose 3 – 4 drills you want to do.

  • Most drills should be completed over 20 – 40m. Start with a shorter distance and as you build strength and efficiency (and find your form breaking down slower) increase your distance to the outer limit of that range.
  • Walk back to where you started before beginning the next drill.
  • Perform 2 – 3 reps of each drill before beginning the next exercise.

Action Is Key

There’s a reason most elite runners and triathletes include running drills in their training.

Because, they’re a valuable part of a well-structured training programme that when done consistently, will make you a better more efficient runner. One who is also less prone to injury. Boom!

I encourage you to put aside your ego and the fear of looking foolish and to get outside and practise these drills.

Good luck.

Coached RunningBen PulhamBen Pulham is a former professional triathlete and the founder of Coached, a heart rate training programme that helps you optimise, track and enjoy your training.