The fastest, most agile ,strongest and best conditioned teams win. Top running programs include speed, agility, power running and conditioning elements in their program. The benefits from a well prepared offseason running program result in faster, quicker and better conditioned players.
Here are some do's and dont's for a winning offseaon running program:
1. WARM UP
- Always warm up properly before any running program. An effective warmup will not only enhance the workout but help you avoid injury.
- Static stretching only before participating in a running session will likely result in injury. Furthermore, research has shown that static stretching solely and immediately before an athletic event actually impairs performance.
2. PROPER HYDRATION AND DIET
- Hydrate and eat right.
- Proper "water levels" and "fuel" make a significant difference in transforming an athlete into a high performance machine.
- It is important to remember to eat carbohydrate-based foods (fruits, vegetables, bread, pasta) at least two or three hours before competition.
- Drink 17 to 20 fluid ounces of water or sports drink two to three hours before competition/workout. Then 10 to 20 minutes before the running session, drink just 7 to 10 fluid ounces of water or sports drink.
- During the workout, drink 7 to 10 fluid ounces of water or sports drink every 10 to 20 minutes
- Eat fried foods, drink soda or overeat before the running session.
3. RUNNING MECHANICS/POSTURE
- Follow proper running form, which includes a slight bend in the ankles, knees, hips and elbows.
- When running, the most effective way to run is to make sure that the foot strikes the ground under your knee (a pushing type movement.
- Keep your elbows relatively still when running.
- Arms/Hands should move up (to chest level) and back (to the "back" pocket) with the hands staying "loose" when running.
- Keep your head up and eyes forward on what is in front of the you as you run.
- Bend at the waist and lower back to cause a "hunching" posture when performing speed training drills.
- Allow the foot to strike in front of the knee creating a pulling motion. This type of running will result in decreased performance and likely injury.
- Flex and extend the elbows, like "playing the drums" when running. This will cause excessive motion and will throw off the synchronized fashion of effective running.
- Allow the arms to cross midline when running straight ahead. If running/moving sideways in an agility drill, then it is proper to allow the arms to cross over the middle of the body
- Run with tightly gripped fists. This causes unwanted tension in the upper body which in turn effects the needed fluid motion in the upper body.
- Run with your head/eyes focused on the ground. The best players "see" the game and adjust their body accordingly to make spectacular plays.
4. SPEED, AGILITY, POWER AND CONDITIONING ELEMENTS
- Speed train explosively. Proper activation of the fast-twitch muscles in an athlete occur when there is high intensity running within short time intervals (up to 20 second intervals).
- Create speed drills that mimic the specific movements of each position. (For example, wide receivers run routes as speed training drills, etc.)
- Train your agility with drills that are designed to mimic specific aspects of the movements of each particular position on the football team. (For example, defensive backs perform the "W" drill, which is a drill where they backpedal for 3 to 5 yards then plant and sprint forward for 3 to 5 yards while moving down the field in a "W" outline.)
- Use heavy bands, hill running or sled running to improve power running capacity.
- Rest properly in between workouts for superb results. (For example a 10 second long "fast run" will need at least two to three minutes of rest, a 30-yard up hill run where it takes the runner 4 seconds should have at least 45 seconds rest.)
- Use high intensity, multi-directional agility drills like a sled push (with proper rest in between reps) to increase conditioning.
- Incorporate long distance running into a football offseason running program. If the players needs to run around 1400 yards (defensive backs average around 1400 yards running in a game, whereas offensive linemen run between 440-600 yards in a game) break it up so that it mimics the high speed, shorter distance runs that the player will actually experience when they are playing in the game.
- Run in straight lines. "Gassers" as they are called in the football world (running from sideline to sideline) are fine but when does a football player run only straight ahead? Very rarely. Only when you are training for the 40-yard dash should a player focus on straight-line running. Run the gassers between the yard markers or use a serpentine cone system so that the players are not running in a straight line.
- Focus on just one aspect of running (speed, agility, power or conditioning). Denying any of the aspects of running will cost your team in many ways.
5. COORDINATE STRENGTH TRAINING SESSIONS WITH RUNNING SESSIONS
- Plan your running program in "concert" with the strengthening program. In other words, they should both complement each other and not take away from each other.
- Always run before doing weight training with your legs, not the other way around.
- Combine a high intensity run session immediately with a high intensity and high volume (amount of total exercises) leg strengthening session in the gym on the same day. This could minimize results if proper recovery between sessions is not allowed.
- Perform leg weight training immediately before running. Pre-fatiguing the legs will result in poor activation of the fast-twitch fibers in the legs, which in turn will result in less than stellar improvements in speed.
Incorporate these guidelines into your running program this off season and get ready for a faster, more powerful and well-conditioned team to show up on game day!
-Brett Fischer is a licensed physical therapist, certified athletic trainer, certified strength and conditioning specialist and a certified dry needling provider. He has worked with the University of Florida, New York Jets, PGA & Senior PGA TOUR and the Chicago Cubs.