The Houston Astros’ World Series victory is a testament to, among other things, the potential we all have to run just a little bit faster. While the Astros focus on explosive speed drills aimed at covering 60 yards, many of those same drills will translate to faster 5K or 10K times as well.
The Astros’ running drills are the legacy of more than 30 years of input from Dr. Gene Coleman, a professor in the Fitness and Human Performance program at University of Houston-Clear Lake. Coleman worked with the Astros from 1979 until 2012 and since then has performed a similar function for the Texas Rangers. His book, “52-Week Baseball Training,” places a strong emphasis on the mechanics of running as the foundation for improving running times.
“No matter how strong or flexible you get, you’re only going to run as fast as your mechanics permit,” Coleman writes. To improve running mechanics, he suggests beginning with arm motions. Coleman describes the proper arm motion as “cheek to cheek,” so that the right arm moves almost to the right cheek and the left arm toward the left cheek, rather than across the body.
To practice this, Coleman devised a short drill where runners focus entirely on arm movements. Arm and leg movement are naturally linked, so by making the arms move faster, the legs will begin to move faster as well. The drill is essentially an interval set, with the first third being a jog aimed at getting the arm movement going for about 30 yards, then 30 yards at increased arm turnover and then 30 yards with the arms pumping as fast as possible.
After a walk or jog break, the three-part drill should be repeated five or six times. The drill is meant to increase turnover rate, and also reduces fatigue by using a more efficient running form. It’s not going to vault a weekend runner into the major leagues, but even a small improvement can make most of us feel like an MVP.