For many runners around the world, putting in long miles — especially on trails — isn’t an option. You may live in a densely populated city where running on the roads simply doesn’t feel safe, or you may not be able to run outside because you’re in self-isolation or quarantined. But, if you can find a space in the backyard, basement or living room, you can still work on run drills that make you a better runner when you are free and clear to cover as many miles as you want.
Feel free to use these drills as a warmup for your run or perform them as a circuit for a workout that never takes you farther than 20 feet.
“I love the classic ‘fast-feet’ training where you sprint in place for 20 seconds at a time. It really does help build trail-running skills while you’re off the trail,” says Alyssa Godesky, a professional trail runner, triathlete and coach.
The drill: Move lightly and quickly for 20 seconds at a time. You might feel a little silly at first, but sprinting in place helps with fast feet, and turns your drills into an aerobic workout. Do these between each drill to keep your heart rate up if you’re not going to get in any other cardio work.
“One of the most overlooked aspects of trail running is the technical foot skill: having quick, light feet,” says Godesky.
“You can chalk out or use tape to make a simple ladder or boxes on the ground and do skips.” Keep your posture upright and look straight ahead instead of down — ladders are great for improving trail skills, since they teach you how to pay attention to the small stuff on the ground in front of you as well as looking straight ahead to see what’s coming.
The drill: Start with simple run-throughs going from one box to the next, staying on the balls of your feet. Then, go through doing more of a skipping motion with those knees high.
Godesky loves to add hopping to her ladder drills. Start simple. No one wants a sprained ankle from agility training!
The drill: With the same ladder as above, add lateral single hops, hopping across the ladder on one foot, then reversing to use the other foot. Or, hop like a rabbit through the ladder, going forward first, then alternate leading with your left foot and then your right.
“Try to spend just a few minutes each day on forward lunges, backward lunges and side lunges,” Godesky suggests.
The drill: To do this, stand up straight with your hands on your hips, then step forward with your right foot and do a forward lunge, bringing your left knee down toward the ground as your right foot leads forward, bringing your knee over your ankle. Return, then step back with your right foot, so your left foot leads while your right knee sinks toward the ground. Reset, then step your right foot out laterally into a wide stance, and bend at the right knee to sink into a side lunge. Step back, then repeat the sequence leading with your left foot.
“Single-leg stepups will go a long way to strengthening the muscles you’ll use when you’re back on the trails,” Godesky says. These are especially important if you can’t currently add any vertical to your training because you can’t leave your immediate area for the trails.
The drill: Use your stairs or a box and step up, starting with 5–10 on each leg and slowly work your way up — focus on good form and driving your opposite arm up as you step up.
ONE FINAL REMINDER
“This is also a great time to embrace the monotony of it all, and remind yourself that in doing so, you’re working on your mental toughness,” says Godesky. So. while it might be boring being stuck in the house, use these drills as a chance to build mental skills as well as physical ones. Especially for trail running, the ability to pay attention to your surroundings and focus closely on the next obstacle and the obstacle that’s 10 feet away is key, and you can still practice that at home.