These workouts can boost fitness, speed, endurance and correct weaknesses - and are fun to do
Walt Reynolds explains how you can improve your level of fitness.
How can you improve your fitness, including your speed, speed endurance, leg power, and work capacity, while at the same time having fun and introducing variety into your regular routine? The answer is to rely on "run-play" workouts. Run-play is a variation of conventional fartlek or "speed-play" training and involves a mixture of running, bounding, and sprinting exercises that are combined with mobility and agility drills to form a sequenced training session of high energy activity.
Run-play workouts can be altered to suit the needs of different athletes, and specific weaknesses in an athlete's fitness (in speed, stamina, or leg power, for example) can be corrected by accenting various portions of the overall run-play format. Individuals who need more speed can emphasize the speed training units, while those who lack stamina can focus on speed endurance, and so on.
Run-play workouts can be especially helpful during the general preparation or base building phases of training. However, periodic use of the run-play format can give you much needed variation in your training during the pre-competitive and competitive phases of training. All run-play activities, including warm ups, running, sprinting, bounding, and various drills, should be performed on a soft, resilient surface away from the track and roads, so the best site for run-play training is an outdoor trail, a park, or a level, grassy field.
Run-play training can be carried out by individuals or groups; with groups, run-play can be incorporated into a game of "follow the leader" which increases camaraderie and helps build team unity (especially when used with young athletes). Coaches can easily add new activities to the run-play format to keep the programme interesting and fun. Run-play sessions are typically scheduled near the end of a training week (on Saturday, for example) and are followed by a day of rest or light training to allow for complete recovery and the re-stocking of energy stores.
The actual number of exercises, drills, and activities in run-play training is virtually limitless, but the basic pattern of training units (for mobility, power, speed, and endurance) is organised in a way that emphasizes the specific characteristics of an athlete's particular event.
For example, in the case of runners:
The actual composition of a speed play workout is different for each type of athlete. Here are the basic training units, which are the "building blocks" of run-play workouts.
The Warm Up
The warm up starts slowly and progresses in speed and intensity over a 20 to 25 minute period. Begin your warm up with a combination of walking, marching (walking with an exaggerated knee lift), and slow jogging for a total of about 150 to 200 metres. Then progress into 50 to 100 metre segments of trotting (fast jogging), skipping, "grapevine stepping", backward jogging, side shuffles, and small jump bounding (from foot to foot) over the course of about 800 to 1000 metres. Between each exercise, jog slowly for a little while, and try to perform the activities in multiple directions (backwards, and sideways right and left, in addition to straight ahead) in order to add variety, fun, and increased difficulty to the warm up. This initial portion of the warm up serves to raise your body temperature, increasing the blood flow to your working muscles. It engages your nervous system, muscles, and joints in low level agility activities that prepare you well for your actual training. Your warm up period continues with dynamic mobility exercises, which increase the range of motion in the major joints of your body. Arm swings, neck movements, trunk and shoulder motions, hip circles and twists, leg swings, and ankle bounces should be performed for about 10 to 15 repetitions each, following one after the other with minimal interruption.
The warm up concludes with running activities that are specific to your preferred sport and prepare you completely for the training activities, which form the main portion of your workout. Warm up for sprinters, basketball players: Complete two repetitions ("reps") of 60 to 80 metre strides at about 75% of your maximum speed, with a 60 to 80 metre, walk back recovery. To work out what is 75% of your maximum speed, put your various running paces on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being your absolute maximum speed. Then try to run the repetition sat a speed which would correspond with about 7.5 on this scale. Follow the two strides with two 40 to 50 metre accelerations where you increase your speed from 50% to 90% of maximum over the course of 40 to 50 metres. Use a slow walk back to the starting point, while keeping your legs loose and relaxed ("shake them out" if necessary) for recovery. Warm up for middle distance runners and soccer players: Carry out two repetitions of 120 to 150 metre light runs at about 65% of maximum speed, with a 120 to 150 metre jog back recovery. Follow the light runs with two 80 to 100 metre strides at 75% of maximum speed. Each stride is followed by a walk back recovery. Warm up for distance runners: Run two repetitions of 150 to 200 metre light runs at 60% of maximum speed, with a 150 to 200 metre, jog back recovery. These are followed by four 100 to 120 metre strides at 75% of maximum speed. Follow each stride with a walk back recovery.
After completing the warm up, move directly into the training exercises described below. Follow the order outlined for your specific event.
Leg Power Improvement
Leg power exercises include horizontal bounding and hopping. Bounding and hopping are basic forms of plyometric training, which can enhance your leg power and running speed by increasing the "reactive" capabilities of your legs. As your legs become more "spring like," you'll get more energy out of each stride, and your stride lengths will naturally increase. The bounding sequences in your run play workout can include the following:
Run-play training helps develop foot speed by emphasising exercises, which focus on improving sprint form while running at less than maximal velocities. The increased speed, which is developed then, provides the foundation for more specific speed training, which is carried out during the pre-competitive and competitive phases of the training year. Run-play speed training is applied to the sprint and middle distance events as follows:
Speed Endurance Development
The ability to maintain submaximal, but high quality, running speeds over distances of 150 metres or more requires the development of speed endurance. Speed endurance training improves your ability to tolerate increased amounts of lactic acid in your system and lessens your feelings of fatigue as you run at faster speeds. Speed endurance development is most important for runners who compete in events of 400 metres and longer. They can also be used by sprinters as a form of base training. The speed endurance component of run-play training includes the following:
Upgrades General endurance or stamina is developed by completing bouts of continuous activity at moderate intensifies, performed for longer than three minutes. The general endurance component of run-play training includes the following:
Run-Play Cool Down
For all athletes, the cool down portion of a run-play workout involves walking and jogging for a distance of 500 to 800 metres, followed by a short period of static stretching which especially focuses on the calves, hamstrings, quads, and hip and buttock muscles. This concluding segment of a run-play session should not be neglected, because it allows your body to gradually return to a state of rest.
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