Running. Getting into the flow

I don’t think I have ever experienced runners high, but I know that there are times during runs where everything clicks and running feels effortless. During these periods, all my muscles are relaxed, my whole body from my arms to my legs move together, my legs just turn over, and every movement feels like it is driving me forward. These times are few and far between, but they are what makes the training worth it.

I am two weeks into my running training for this year, and I have one goal; increase the frequency of this feeling. I assume that this flow state represents the most efficient and effective way to run and maximising the times when I feel this will make me faster. But the question is, what can I do to trigger this running sensation?

To improve my running flow, I perform pre-run dynamic stretching and post-run strides each time I run, short maximum effort hill sprints twice per week and one set of technique drills.

Pre-run warm-up routine

Before every run, I perform this short dynamic warm-up routine from @coachtommy.nrg on Instagram to get my legs moving:

  1. 10x Calf raises
  2. 10x Lunges
  3. 10x Squats (full range of motion)
  4. 10x Knee to chest
  5. 20x Leg swings on each side
  6. 30x Heel flicks 

Technique Drills

Once per week, currently on a Friday lunchtime, I perform technique drills from Pete Magill’s Fast 5K to work on my form:

  1. Skipping
  2. High skipping
  3. Long skipping
  4. Flat-footed marching
  5. High knees
  6. Bounding
  7. Quick feet
  8. Quick hops
  9. Butt Kicks

Each drill is performed for one repeat of 20 meters (on my driveway and down the side of my house), jog back, then stride the 20 meters, then walk back to the start for the next drill.

Very short, very steep, very fast hill sprints

Twice per week, I am performing hill sprints. I go to a steep hill (around the corner from my house) and run up it as fast as possible (maximal effort) for between 8-12 seconds. Walk down to recover and then repeat up to 10 times. Brad Hudson in Run Faster provides a progression:

  • Week 1: 1×8 sec hill sprint
  • Week 2: 2×8 sec hill sprint
  • Week 3: 3×8 sec hill sprint
  • Week 4: 4×8 sec hill sprint
  • Week 5: 5×8 sec hill sprint
  • Week 6: 6×8 sec hill sprint
  • Week 7: 7×8 sec hill sprint
  • Week 8: 8×8 sec hill sprint
  • Week 9: 10×8 sec hill sprint
  • Week 10: 8×10 sec hill sprint
  • Week 11: 10×10 sec hill sprint
  • Week 12: 10×10 sec hill sprint
  • Week 13: 8×10 sec hill sprint
  • Week 14: 5×10 sec hill sprint

Post-run strides

Strides are short, fast runs of around 10-20 seconds with at least 40 seconds of light running between to recover. I have started to add them to the end of each run down a wide ally near my house. I run for 20 seconds and then jog back to the start. Jess Tonn, a seven-time All-American at Stanford, has built up to doing six to 10 of them nearly every day, often logging more than 50 post-run strides in a week. I am running four days per week and follow a progression similar to the hill sprints for each run:

  • Week 1: 2x 20-second stride
  • Week 2: 3x 20-second stride
  • Week 3: 4x 20-second stride
  • Week 4: 5x 20-second stride
  • Week 5: 6x 20-second stride
  • Week 6: 7x 20-second stride
  • Week 7: 8x 20-second stride
  • Week 8: 10x 20-second stride
  • Week 9: 8x 25-second stride
  • Week 10: 10x 25-second stride
  • Week 11: 10x 25-second stride
  • Week 12: 8x 25-second stride
  • Week 13: 5x 25-second stride