Speed training can keep me injury free?
Isn't training speed what can cause my injuries?
And don't I just...you know,…run fast to get faster?
I know, such professional, doctoral answers. ;)
But these are the questions that so many runners have. These are questions I HAD when I first started running! And I wish I had known the answers and what I know now.
What I know now is this:
Speed is more than running fast. Speed is your body and mind syncing together to allow you to move quickly to create power to generate velocity to be fast.
(ok, yes. Yes, it is wordy). But that statement also conveys the science and the layers there are to speed. Some runners are just born to be fast. But why are they fast? What is it they naturally have and how can we train to be more like that?
That's where today's blog post comes in.
By the end of this blog post, I want you to gain an understanding of what sequence is, why it's important to speed and know why and how to train sequence and speed to help you stay injury free.
Let's dive in.
What is sequencing and why is it important to speed?
Let's start with an analogy. Before you can run fast, you first have to run easy. You know this! Running easy is what builds your aerobic base. And that base is what gives you the foundation to build faster paces. You can only successfully run fast after your body has learned how to handle to load of running in general.
But speed goes deeper than just running fast paces.
Does your body know how to move fast?
That's the real question.
And that natural, but trained, ability is what sets gifted, fast runners apart from the rest of us (myself included.)
Fact: We know intrinsically how to move fast.
Evidence: we have reflexes!
Fact: But we aren't all world class sprinters.
Why? Because what causes those reflexes to engage?
Usually, they occur out of safety. Jumping out of the way of a sled coming down a hill, or dodging a dodge ball.
And running fast isn't a reflex. But moving fast can be trained. Look at the agility drills runners, football players, and basketball players use. This agility drills help different body groups such as arms vs legs move quickly and move correctly.
These agility drills are teaching sequencing.
They are teaching the athlete the correct timing of different movement of various body parts, all moving together, at once, but in different directions! They repeat these drills over and over again so after time, they don't think about it.
Imagine trying to go up the stairs backwards.
It's hard, right??
Because you're not moving in the "correct sequence", or at least the sequence you're used to moving in
So why is this important to speed?
Because in order to be fast, to build speed, you also need your arms and legs moving together at the correct time and in the right order.
Imagine sprinting around the track, arms and legs pumping! Now, imagine sprinting around the track with one arm in a sling or cast. That's going to feel just as awkward as trying to go up those stairs backwards. And I'd bet $10 you wouldn't be as fast.
Ok, so I understand sequencing now. But how does training this keep me injury free?
By training sequencing, you are taking the time to teach (or reteach) your body how to move correctly.
You can argue we already how to move correctly.
And I'd agree with you!
But how much of our jobs now leave us sitting at a desk in front of a computer for at least 8 hours a day?
Add a commute on top of that.
Put that into comparison with what typical day at the physical therapy clinic looks like for me:
I'm standing, sitting, squatting.
Pushing and pulling sleds.
I'm crawling around on the ground, laying down on my belly or my back, rolling around.
I'm throwing medicine balls, chucking dodgeballs, or trying to balance on my belly on an exercise ball.
Do YOU move that much in your job?
...And even I still need to train my sequencing!
The point here:
Our daily lives look so much more stationary. A lot of us simply don't use that "how to move fast" part of our brains. It's not necessary for our daily survival.
But we expect our bodies and brains to just figure it out when it's time for a speed day?
I don't know, that doesn't seem right to me.
So by training sequencing and by individually training fast arms vs. fast legs, we give our body and our brain a preview of coming attractions.
We give our body a heads-up:"Hey, we're going to be moving fast soon and this is how to do that correctly."
Alright. So I'm on-board with sequencing and running fast and injury free. But how do I train that?
I'm so glad you asked.
And true to form, I have a test for you to start with. So go ahead and stand up. I want you to sprint in place as fast as you can for 30 secs. It doesn't sound like much. But GO! And GO FAST! And FASTER! STILL GO FASTER!
If you did it correctly, you should be slightly (or very) winded. I want you to remember how that felt in your entire body. Even better, take a video of yourself doing this.
Note, are your arms and legs moving at the same speed? Are your arms or legs lagging behind each other?
We're going to slowly build to that lunge position we've been working in over the past few weeks.
Sequence training for arms // Fast Runner Arms
Tall kneeling with fast arms(Can be performed 2-3x)
Start standing on both knees on a yoga mat or something to cushion your knees (in PT world, we call this position tall kneeling). I want you to sprint with your arms as fast as you can for 20-30 secs, staring straight ahead at a target.
2. 1/2 kneeling with fast arms (Can be performed on both sides 2-3x)
Now, let's make this look a little more like running. From that tall kneeling position, bring one leg up so one knee remains on the ground. Sprint with your arms again as fast as you can for 20-30 secs, staring straight ahead at a target.
Repeat again on the other side.
Note: did you notice any weight shifting as you speed up? Did you feel steadier on one side more than the other? Did you feel faster or slower in this position?
3. Lunge position with fast arms (Can be performed on both sides 2-3x)
Now to make this really look like running. Get into a lunge position and sprint with your arms again for 20-30secs, staring straight ahead at a target. Make sure your knee is actually bent-you have to actually be lunging here!
Now switch legs and repeat.
Note: are you wobbly in your right lunge vs your left? Did you feel as fast here or faster than when you were kneeling on the ground?
Sequence training for legs // Fast Runner Legs
Mountain climbers. (Can be performed 2-3x)
Yep, that's it. Good ol' mountain climbers. Make sure you're torso and body isn't bouncing around as you do them and don't be afraid to put your weight into your hands. Sprint your mountain climber for 20-30 secs.
2. Quick feet scissor jumps (Can be performed 2-3x)
Jump ahead to the "scissor jumps" portion of this video (around 20secs). I want you move your feet back and forth over the line and as quickly as possible, adding in your fast runner arms as you feel comfortable for 20-30 secs.
3. Scissor jumps (Can be performed 2-3x)
Last one! Watch this video and take your time with this exercise. It's harder than it looks and requires a lot of stability and core strength. Perform as quickly as possible, adding in your fast runner arms as you feel comfortable for 20-30 secs.
You knew this was coming.
Go ahead and sprint in place as fast as you can for 30 secs.
Notice, does this feel different this time? Do you feel more coordinated? If you took of a video of yourself, do you look smoother now when you run in place? Are your arms and legs moving at the same speed?
I want to wrap up with a few more things.
Obviously, this whole sequence training can be part of workout in itself. It's a lot of work!
It can also be used as dynamic warm up to your speed days.
To do that, I suggest doing the sprint in place test before and after your sequencing drills. Pick 1 or 2 exercises from each category of fast arms and fast legs and perform them 2-3x for 20-30 secs. Just move your body here and move it fast! By doing this before your speed workout, you'll be priming your body and your mind, preparing yourself to perform your best.
And if you're looking for even more information on sequence and speed and staying injury free, have you grabbed my FREE running guide? It's full of circuits that will help you train your mobility, strength, speed, and movement and help you stay injury free.
Until next time running fit fam.
Dr. Marie Whitt //@dr.whitt.fit
P.S. Speaking of moving, did you know that cross training, meaning movement in ways different than running is the final step in staying injury free? Curious? Then stick around for Part 4 of the Secret to Reducing Running Injuries: Why does cross training keep you injury free?