Whether you're a swimmer, cyclist, runner or triathlete, performing onshore (terra firma) and offshore (in the water) drills throughout the year will make you faster, stronger and more efficient.
In addition, drills are a savvy workout to perform while on the road--especially when you might be stuck in a hotel or at a destination that has limited or no exercise facilities. The drills do not require a lot of space or high-quality equipment. Here are a few to try in each sport.
Swim DrillsUnlike running and cycling, swimming is less about force and more about form, technique and body-positioning. Performing drills in the water will help you swim more efficiently.
Catch Up Begin floating forward, on your stomach, with both arms outstretched in front of your body. Start your stroke (catch and pull) with the right arm and keep your left arm outstretched in front. After your right arm comes back to where it started, outstretched and in front of your body, count off two seconds before pulling your left arm through. Repeat.
This drill is called catch up because you don't pull through until your one arm catches up to the other in front of your head. It is an exaggerated movement to keep you from pulling too soon during your swim stroke. During your normal stroke, your catch and pull should not begin with one arm until your other arm has recovered past your head (or just prior to it entering the water in front of your head).
One Arm The name of this drill explains it all. Pull yourself across the length of the pool using only one arm. Keep the other arm outstretched in front of your head, floating on top of the water.
Side Kick Often we see people kicking hundreds of meters using a kickboard during their workouts. That's not a bad way to improve your kick and strengthen your core, but if you have proper form and body positioning, your kick will rarely be flat on top of the surface as it is with a kickboard. Alternate kickboard kicking with side-kicking, again with one arm outstretched in front of you and while on your side. Remember to kick on both sides.
One Leg These are best performed on a stationary trainer. Clip out of the pedal on one side of your bike and rest that foot on a chair. Then, pedal for a minute with your leg that is still clipped into your pedal. Switch sides. Try five times on each side then do your two-leg workout. Leg isolation work will help you round out your strength and power on both sides.
High RPM Being able to hold a higher cadence will save your big muscle groups for climbs, end of race sprints and running (if you're a triathlete). Spend some time before each workout in a cadence that is about 10 to 20 rpms faster than your comfort zone. Five minutes prior to each workout should do the trick. After a few weeks, that 90 rpm comfort zone might rise to 95 rpm!
Run DrillsLong Strides If you don't have a hill near your regular runs, scout out a 100-yard straight and flat stretch where you can lengthen your stride by about 50 percent. Start easy on these as you don't want to pull a groin muscle. But, run as if you were an antelope almost taking one step for every two or three of your normal stride. Always maintain a very easy pace with these.
High Knees Try running in place and lifting your knees up as high as you can--waist level is sufficient. If you can find grass or dirt to perform these on, all the better.
Run Backwards After your run, walking and running backwards will stretch out your calf muscles and other parts of your leg. Think about how we're always moving forward. A little time heading backward will help you balance out the muscles and your mind. Start off with simply walking backwards for 60 seconds. Then, after a week or two, walk for two minutes backwards after your run. Then, once you feel comfortable with walking backwards, try a slow jog. Always keep an eye out for autos--both moving and parked. I once backed into a parked car--it scared the crud out of me, but at least the alarm didn't go off.
Jim Kaese is co-founder of Athletic-Minded Traveler, LLC, which operates the largest healthy travel content site on the web, creates healthy lifestyle content for various media, and generates online custom wellness and work-life solutions for Fortune 500 employers.