So Americans call it soccer. Just about everywhere else it is known as football. I have never understood why Americans decided to call a game football where only one person uses their feet to touch the ball. It just does not compute with me. Maybe I should live over in Europe. haha
Anyway, I will humor you all and just call it soccer (even though I would rather not).
The issue is that my wife signed us up for a 5K run later this year. I have ran a 5K before. My last one was a PR (personal record) of 27-minutes. Not a great run, but not horrible. I much prefer cycling over running because running is just so boring to me. I am sure that several runners think the same way about cycling. To each their own.
I am not a runner in the sense that I do not really ever feel like running any distance. I require motivation. Yes, I have ran a 5K before, but there was no motivation behind it. I did a triathlon once, just to see if I could do it. I did. I did a 5K run only, just prove that I could run it faster, and I did. In both instances I did very little training on two feet. Most of it was on a bicycle. I think before the triathlon I ran a total of maybe 6 miles. Before the 5K I ran maybe 3. So, as you can see, I am not a runner.
I did, however, play soccer in high school. I never got a scholarship because I was injured my junior and senior years. You have to play in order for scouts to see you. I kept messing up my shooting foot right before season started. It was just not meant to be. I have accepted that all these years later. Yet I still find myself wanting to play the game. Out of all the sports in the world, next to cycling, soccer is my sport. I would play baseball as well, but you spend half the time just standing there, waiting for a little ball to come flying your way. I enjoy athletics too much to stand being a statue for over half the game.
Also, in baseball one is not required to be insanely agile. It is a plus to be a sprinter, especially if you played outfield like I did. Yet, you can easily be a larger person and play just fine. You can honestly get by with very little training. I am not saying that it does not require talent to play. It requires a ton of talent. It just does not require much training other than throwing drills and batting practice. Granted, you incorporate more training if you want to see an improvement in batting speed and throwing speed; also to help reduce injuries.
Now in soccer, you have to be in crazy good shape to play. If you are not, you will be useless to the team as you run (or crawl, if you are really out of shape) back and fourth along the pitch.
Okay, what am I talking about here, oh yes, training for my 5k.
So due to my lack of training for my previous runs, I have decided that I need to train more on my feet. Cycling is great, but honestly, it does little for running. Thinking of what I could do to mix things up, my old soccer drills came back into my head. One is an 8-point interval drill. I am sure others may call it something else, but that is what I know it as.
Essentially, you set up 9 cones for this drill. They can be set up in an octagon shape, which is fine, or a square. If you set it up as a square, there is a cone at every corner, and one in between each of those four cones. Place the remaining cone in the center. Then, standing at one of the outer cones, sprint to the center cone, then run backwards towards the next cone to your right. Once you reach that cone, sprint back to the center, then move to the next cone to your right. Repeat this until you run backwards towards your original starting cone. That is one cycle. Rest for 60-seconds and repeat it until you feel like you are going to puke. Ok, just kidding. You really do not want to overdue this one because it is easy to push yourself too far; especially if you are like me.
This is an example:
What I use instead of cones, is a tennis court. Tennis courts have plenty of traction which somewhat simulate using cleats. Also, a half of a court simulates the same pattern that I listed above. The distances do not need to be precise. Here, close counts.
Another drill I do are suicides. I also do these on the tennis court, since we have two courts side by side. Start at one sideline, running in the same direction as the net. I run half court, touch the ground, run back to the sideline and touch the ground. I then run half way between the two courts, touch the ground, and back again. After that I run to mid-court on the second court and back again. I top it off with a run to the sideline of the other court, then I work my way back, mid to half to mid and done. When you touch the ground, make sure you head points in the same direction. That way you use both feet to stop you. This helps you from overworking one side, and also prevents you from getting dizzy by turning in the same direction repeatedly.
This image shows you how we used to do it in soccer:
You can use different distances. I recommend much shorter distances if you are starting out. Like in my case, I have not done these in so long I knew I was going to be winded very quickly. So I kept everything within 40 yards.
Another drill I did is called a box drill. Now I believe in balance. I am currently experiencing a body that is out of balance. I have a weak back and it has been giving me such grief that I am doing physical therapy to fix it. Massages were only covering the problem. I realized that my chest was much stronger than my back, and it was aching due to it being weak. I am currently balancing it out. Due to this, I make sure that I am keeping things balanced in my drills as well.
Now in the box drill, the image below shows a sprint, shuffle, backpedal, and then turn to sprint.
My version is a hyrbid of this. If I do a shuffle in one direction, well, I need to balance it out by doing the other. So I start with the sprint, then the shuffle, then the backpedal. I do not finish it off with another sprint. What I do is another shuffle going in the opposite direction as the first (head constantly pointing the same direction). This makes sure that both sides are getting exercised.
Trust me, if you have not 1) done these drills before, or 2) done them in a long time, well you are in for a surprise. You become acutely aware of just how out of shape you are after a session of these.
I did a one hour session this past Wednesday morning. It is over 42-hours later and I am still feeling it. I am very sore. Not sore as in “OH MY GOODNESS I CANNOT WALK!”, but more like I just feel it when I do walk. I am sore enough to know that I am not going to work out again until next Monday. Of course, I just shocked my system, so the next time I do this it will not be as bad.
The key in these drills is rated perceived exertion (RPE). See the chart below:
Now, reset the chart where 10 is the maximum effort, and that is the scale I use (in short, divide by 2). I say this because most people associate RPE on a scale of 10. So when I am doing these drills, I am typically between an RPE of 8-10. I can push myself hard. I almost threw up a few times when I was running these drills. To me that is a good sign. Granted, we all do not wish to lose our lunch, but honestly, it really shows how hard you are pushing yourself.
We cannot make improvements to our fitness by sitting comfortable at an RPE of 1 or 2. We must exert ourselves to burn calories and also to gain muscle mass and tone. Also, it is very easy to sell yourself short and say “this is too hard” and quit. You can push yourself harder than you think you can. I have done it so many times that I do not even think about it anymore. Trust your body. Convince yourself that you can do it and you will. It is easy to give up. However, if you stick with it you will find yourself growing stronger, not only in strength and endurance, but inside yourself as well. You hold your head up higher when you see and feel the improvements over time.
Nothing comes easily in life. When you work for something, you appreciate it so much more. I am working towards smashing my 5K PR. This run, is not a typical run either. It is an obstacle course. So honestly I feel the sprinting practice will give me a definite advantage out on the course. You must run from obstacle to obstacle, start and stop. The sprinting will help with this. I plan on keeping this up and I cannot wait to see what the course holds for me later this year!
Here is the race I will be running in with my wife: http://runforyourlives.com/
Train hard and safely!
Also, I must state that you should not start any exercise routine without approval from a licensed doctor. I do not wish to be responsible for someone collapsing trying these drills. Only you know how hard you can go and only you know what your limits are. It is fun trying to push those limits, however, it can come back to haunt you.