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Why I love running drills

Posted by Elizabeth Comeau  September 27, 2012 07:39 AM

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While my long runs are important for prepping for my half-marathon in November, I've discovered I also love a good running drill.

And the former fat kid in me thinks that fact is totally messed up.

In high school as a field hockey player, I can remember dreading the practices that were drill heavy -- running ladders, stick drills, wind sprints. Man, I would have rather done long division (for a girl who is still terrible at math, that's saying something).

So, here, I'll try to explain to my former fat kid self why I love running drills these days.

First, it's an easy way to change things up.

No matter how much I love running, doing so for 10+ miles can be mentally and psychically exhausting if your head isn't totally into it during that run. With drills, you are forced to focus on one task for a few minutes -- sometimes seconds -- at a time. To me, it's a bit like eating breakfast for dinner: It's not really that different because it's all food in the end, it's just somewhat unexpected.

Second: They force me to work hard.

I'm not going to say I don't work hard on a long run. But, I will say that during long runs, my body naturally falls into a certain pace and rhythm. I've found that since I'm not used to doing drills, my body never falls into a comfortable pace. I never relax during drills, whereas with long runs I always settle in and my brain and body eventually just know what to do. Drills make me run harder and faster than I normally would. It's not always what I would call "fun," but it certainly gets my blood pumping.

So what kind of drills do I do? Here are two of my current favorites:

Hills

Ugh. Just typing the word "hills" make me nervous. But, what kind of a runner would I be if I only ran on a flat surface?! How dull (plus, in New England, I'm pretty sure I'd never see anywhere other than my driveway!). My hill work consists of this workout from Runner's World:

Jog for 10 minutes to warm up, then walk for two minutes. From the bottom of a gentle incline, run up at an easy pace for five seconds, then walk back to the starting point. Run up again for seven seconds. Walk down. Run for 10 seconds, then walk down. If you're feeling strong, repeat the sequence. Cool down with a 15-minute jog.

My legs usually feel like jelly after a few rounds with some of the hills near my home, but I also feel like I really did some good work.

Speed intervals

Since I pass four cemeteries during my normal 10-mile route, I like to call my speed runs "running cemeteries" because I run hard and fast as I'm passing by the cemetery, and then return to normal pace once I'm past it. This drill is my own little twist on this workout:

Pick a telephone pole, mailbox, stop sign, or anything up ahead and run to it. You can choose one item (all telephone poles, for example) or multiple landmarks to create varying lengths of speed segments. On each segment, gradually pick up the pace until you're running fast but not all out. For the last 20 steps, hold the pace, but focus on relaxing your body and allowing momentum to take over. Walk or jog for half the distance of your repeat, then spot your next landmark and take off again. Continue for a total of 10 to 15 minutes, before running an easy five to 10 minutes to cool down.

Do you like fitness or running drills? Why?

Staying fit is an important part of staying healthy. This blog will offer exercise tips from experts as well as share the personal journeys of Globe staff members committed to fitness. No matter your age or energy level, we invite you to join in and share your own story. How do you find time to work out? What are your daily challenges? Let us know and read along -- and together, we can all get moving.

CONTRIBUTORS

Elizabeth Comeau is a social media marketing manager at Boston.com. She will be blogging about her personal fitness journey and using a device called a FitBit to track her weekly goals and progress (see below). Follow her journey and share your own. Read more about Elizabeth and this blog.

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