Reach the Next Level in Running

Fist and foremost is the Foot Strike.

Unless you are up in the wildness or a desert island then you are likely to be a heel-striker. This means that each time your foot comes into contact with the ground you put on the brakes just slightly until your center of mass gets over and past the midfoot. At that point gravity starts helping you again with a vector of force that accelerates your forward momentum free of charge. If you are running fast, the slight deceleration that takes place when your heel hits the ground first is not going to be noticeable. However, in a long race, if you end up very fatigued, the braking action of a heel strike is, well, striking and very noticeable.

So here’s the drill. Go to a track or grass field if you can’t find a track/have access to one and run a lap or two without shoes or socks. I guarantee that you will instantaneously start to land on your midfoot or maybe even slightly forward of it.

This subtracts any braking action that a heel strike would have and immediately converts your running form to its most efficient foot plant pattern. Now put the shoes back on and try to continue to run with that same feel you had without the shoes.

Do this drill daily until you can replicate the midfoot strike and hold it throughout your training runs. Over time this will become your normal run form.

Next and as equally as important is Cadence.

One thing that you will notice after perfecting a midfoot strike is that you get on and off your feet more quickly with each foot plant. This naturally increases your cadence, which is something that will benefit every runner. Elite runners have about the same cadence as top cyclists, hitting the ground about 90 times per minute if strikes are counted on one side. Slower inefficient runners are down around 70-80 foot strikes per minute, which means that they are spending more time on the ground with each foot, and are usually guilty of braking by striking with the heel.

Increasing your cadence starts with getting to a midfoot strike. It is much easier to increase from 80 to 90 strides per minute with a midfoot strike than it is if you are landing heel-first. Generally, heel-strikers end up overstriding, especially when they attempt to go faster or when they try to increase their leg turnover.

Another way to increase your run cadence to that of an elite runner is to carry that same goal over to your cycling. If you are pushing 75 revolutions per minute (rpm) on the bike for hours on end, it will be very tough to get off and suddenly turn your tired legs over at 90 rpm on the run. However, watching your cadence on the bike and keeping it at 90-95 rpm for the bulk of your riding will help carry you to a similar cadence when it’s time to run.

The final tip on foot strike and cadence is to practice it on every run, even your slow recovery runs. Just because you’re running slowly on a recovery day does not mean that you should have a slower cadence or revert to a heel strike.

Next up is the voice of Terrain.

Hills or flat, Roads or trails? These are choices we make when we head out for every run workout. Each has its place and purpose in helping you become a faster runner. Trails have several advantages. The uneven terrain forces your feet and legs to manage some sideways motion and to create stability on slightly unstable ground. This strengthens lots of smaller support muscles that just don’t get worked by the predictability of pavement. Then, later in a race when you start to fatigue, these small muscles can come into play to help support the larger muscles as they tire, which allows you to maintain good form and stay efficient much longer than if you never do any trail running. A second benefit to trails is that the jarring on your body is less than on pavement, which enables a person to put in more training miles with less breakdown. The net result is more training volume and training consistency with less likelihood of injury.

But there is a reason to run on the roads as well. Unless you are going to be racing on a trail it is important to have your legs adapted to the impact of pavement. Early in my career I did almost all my run training on trails, especially my longer runs. However, when I got to Ironman I found that running the marathon on pavement caused a huge amount of muscle breakdown, and the critical switch point where the impact surpassed the brain’s override mechanism hit at around the half-marathon point. This meant it became impossible for me to actually run the second half of the run. Finally in 1989 I figured this out. I gradually transitioned to running more miles on the roads as I got closer to Ironman, so that my leg muscles and joints were adapted to the added impact. The results were profound. I still had some breakdown, but the big impasse where I had struggled in previous years didn’t hit me until I was within a couple of miles of the finish. At that point, the horse could smell the barn and I was able to keep my pace up.

The actual profile of your training terrain is also important. If you have hills in your race, you will want to run them in training. Same for flat courses. Bounding up hills won’t be the most effective way to get you ready to run fast on a dead flat course. A variety of training terrain is ideal for building overall run fitness and also for preventing repetitive motion injuries that running on one single terrain type can cause. As you get close to your key races, transition to doing around two-thirds of your runs on the terrain that you will encounter on race day. Then split the remaining third of your runs between the two other terrain options (hilly, rolling or flat) that are less a part of your race course profile.

Block More Shots In Basketball

Increase Your Vertical Jump

When I was in High School I used to rely mostly on my athleticism to get blocks. At first I didn’t think much of it, but I realized that blocking shots will earn the respect of your teammates and your competition. The opposing team will think twice about throwing up a weak lay-up when you’re lurking around just waiting to send the ball to the other side of the court.

A high vertical jump allows you to get more blocks without having to focus too much on timing and patience. For the average guy, getting a block requires great timing and focus, but when you have hops, you can get blocks despite a lack of focus or timing.

When you can jump out of the gym, getting blocks becomes inevitable. As long as you take defense seriously, you will find yourself getting blocks left and right.

Timing/Patience

There are two ways to block a shot; in a 1-on-1 situation and in a help defense situation.

In order to get blocks in any of the two situations you need to have good timing. Good timing requires you to play disciplined defense and it requires you to be patient.

Don’t jump until the offensive player’s feet leaves the floor, or the ball leaves his hands. Don’t be a jumping machine, you can get blocks without jumping if you play good defense. I can’t tell you how many times I blocked somebody without even jumping.

Basketball rewards disciplined players who take defense serious, so if you want to get more blocks, you need to be patient and focused on defense.

Experience

Blocking shots requires you to anticipate what the offense is going to do. So basically, you need to be able to read and react to what the offense throws your way.

This means you need to get in the right place at the right time and rely on your past experiences and your opponent’s previous behaviors to dictate where you need to be in order to make a good defensive play.

Improving Spikes in Volleyball

Focus on a fast arm swing

Many players fail to get the most out of their hits because they think “hit hard” rather than “swing fast”. Power in a spike comes from the speed of the hand at contact. A good arm swing starts with an open torso (which should come from proper approach mechanics) as power begins with twisting through the core with the elbow drawn back. That then carries through the shoulder as the elbow comes forward. It finishes with the arm extending at speed to ball contact. Players get into trouble when they swing from the shoulder, not just in terms of inefficient spikes, but also in increased likelihood of injury.

Contact at full extension

Execution of a proper fast arm swing as mentioned above will see the player strike the ball at the highest possible contact point. This is critical in many ways. Obviously, it creates the best possible attack angle. Players, however, will often drop their arm. Not only is this less efficient, it also leads to a lot of hitting errors. This is particularly noticeable when hitters are trying to hit down the line and when they have no block.

If you can get your hitting mechanics working properly, that alone will make you a much better hitter. From there you can then work on being able to mix things up. Good hitters have the ability to change speeds and to hit to all areas of the court, especially in terms of being able to show a cross-court hit and do a line shot or vice versa. Those skills all require a strong mechanical foundation, however, so start with that and you’ll find yourself progressing nicely.

Volleyball Warm Up Drills

When I say the context, I mean the type of team you have and the priorities you have for them. Warm-ups for a group of 12-and-unders will be considerably different than for elite college level athletes, for example. The kids won’t need all that much to get them physically ready to go, but the college players may. Similarly, warm-ups for a team whose focus is primarily on development might be quite different from those in a mainly competitive environment. A developmental team can use warm-ups to help skill development while for the competitive team may want to simply have the most efficient way to prepare players’ bodies for the rigors of gameplay and perhaps work on tactical elements.

As for purpose, what I mean here is what your warm-up is intended to accomplish. Is it to get players ready for training or for competition. Is it mainly physical or mental, or both? Using the example above, while a physical warm-up for 12-and-unders probably isn’t really necessary, a mental one could be quite important to get them focused at the start of a session. Likewise, getting ready for a match could be quite different from getting ready for practice.

Make sure you have a good handle on both context and purpose as you plan your team’s warm-up. As for the sorts of drills you can use, here are some ideas.

A dynamic warm-up will probably be a good starting point. Basically, a dynamic warm-up is one which gets the body ready for action through various type of movement. You can find examples by searching YouTube. The old jog & stretch routine is increasingly being shown to be ineffective, if not down right detrimental to performance because of the impact of static stretching on the muscles. You’ll want to avoid that.

The dynamic warm-up is quite good as a general physical warm-up and doesn’t take all that much time. If you have specialized needs, you’ll want to address them, of course.

What follows the dynamic warm-up – or perhaps even replaces it, depending on your circumstance – depends on what you want to accomplish. If you want to incorporate skill development in the warm-up, you could do something like ball-handling drills that keep the players moving and active, but also works on their fundamentals. If you have more tactical needs, you can put the players through low-intensity versions of game-like drills by taking out the jumping and/or hitting elements. In the case of a pre-match routine, you’ll want something that is consistent and not only physically prepares the players for play, but also puts them in a good mindset (think high success rate drills).

Player Refuses to Lose

Taylor Deserves Some Respect

Vince Taylor was one of a small number of players who served under both Coach Bill Foster as well as Coach Kryzewski-playing two years for each. Kryzewski had switched him from wing guard to point guard in 1981, but he was able to adjust to the change seamlessly. You may not see Vince Taylor’s name on elite lists of Duke stand-outs but he deserves genuine recognition. Taylor’s final year at Duke was a great one: he shot over 50{d80e87a7309aa943a074ee523b22f9b7e5e75e8965297a972f1423284f5c9ea4} from the floor and led the ACC in points per game at 20.3.

Over Taylor’s Dead Body

It was senior day, Taylor’s last home game for Duke, and his teammates had never seen him so psyched. The game was a killer from the first minute. The score seesawed throughout and no team could establish a sizeable lead. The only other Duke player who scored significant points was Chip Engelland with 16. It became essentially a test of Vince Taylor’s will. Every time it looked as if Clemson might make a run, Taylor put out the fire with a score. Regulation ended in a tie, then the first and second extra periods ended dead even. Taylor must have given his parents fits with that stubborn streak-he simply refused to lose.

Final Minutes of a Great One

By the third overtime, Taylor had to be dog tired. He had played close to 50 minutes and connected on 16 of 25 shots. With 3:33 remaining in regulation Clemson’s Mike Eppley hit a 20-footer to tie the score at 70. Duke’s Tissaw sank one of two free throws to put the Blue Devils ahead, but Fred Gilliam countered with a jumper at 2:05 to make it 72-71. Taylor missed a jumper, then fouled the Tigers’ Vince Hamilton with 51 seconds left. However, he snagged the rebound when Hamilton missed the front end of a one-and-one. Taylor hit a final jumper with 27 seconds remaining. Hamilton tried to juke his way downcourt and score single-handedly but Taylor slapped at it and in the wild scramble Hamilton was whistled for a fatal traveling call. The game was over-Duke had won it 73-72. Vince Taylor walked off the court having scored 35 huge points in the win, along with 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals.