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Offshore and Onshore Drilling...for Swimmers, Cyclists & Runners

No, we're not about to have an intelligent debate on oil and natural gas exploration. We read enough opinions on the topic in the newspapers; still can't understand why more environmentally friendly drilling hasn't begun yet?

And, fortunately for you, we will not be discussing the annual (preferably semi-annual) cavity discovery at the dentist; you don't need teeth to suck down Gatorade and swallow gels, do you?

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The drilling we are referring to will directly impact your future race performance. Oh, now that got your attention, didn't it?

Whether you are a swimmer, cyclist, runner, or triathlete, performing onshore (terra firma) and offshore (in the water) drills in the winter months will make you faster, stronger, and more efficient come summer. Here are a few drills to consider in each sport:

SWIM DRILLS Performing drills in the water will help you swim more efficiently. Unlike running and cycling, swimming is less about force and more about form, technique, and body-positioning.

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 "recovers" back to where it started, (outstretched and in front of your body) then count off two seconds before pulling your left arm through. Repeat. This drill is named "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.

CYCLING DRILLS 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 (maybe 5 times?) with your leg that is still clipped into your pedal. Switch sides. Then, do your two-leg workout. Leg isolation work will help you strengthen and 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 95rpm!

RUN DRILLS Long strides ; If you don't have a hill near your normal runs, scout out a 100-yard straight and flat stretch where you can lengthen your stride by about 50%. 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 2 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 ; scared the crud out of me, but at least the alarm didn't go off).

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