Fitness Corner: Running


Texans strength and conditioning coach Dan Riley writes his popular Fitness Corner column for HoustonTexans.com. Riley and assistant strength and conditioning coach Ray Wright will continue to post selected answers to your questions throughout the year. Join in by shooting over an e-mail to fitness@houstontexans.com.

Here's Dan...

What sort of running routines do the Texans do? Are the routines suitable for the average person? Thanks.

-- Grant Rothberg

Grant, there are two types of running routines our players utilize. These routines are designed to target the aerobic (with oxygen) energy system and the anaerobic (without oxygen) energy system.

There is a linear relationship with heart rate and intensity of exercise. As the intensity of exercise increases there is a corresponding increase in heart rate. The energy system utilized to perform exercise is determined by your heart rate (and the intensity of exercise).

The aerobic system is best developed when the following criteria are met.

  1. The activity is continuous and rhythmical in nature (walking, jogging, running, rowing, bicycling, etc.).
  1. The activity involves larger muscle groups.
  1. The activity is sustained for a minimum duration of twelve minutes.
  1. The activity is performed at a level of intensity of 60% to 85% of maximum heart rate.

Keep your heart rate in the range listed above and you will be assured of training aerobically. Oxygen is an unlimited source of energy which allows us to exercise aerobically for long periods of time if we keep our heart rate below 85% of its maximum.

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You'll find Kailee Wong on the treadmill throughout the off-season.
As your heart rate elevates above 85 percent of its maximum there is a transition to the anaerobic energy system. This energy is stored in your muscles and its supply is limited. This system is best developed by performing shorter sprints with appropriate rest intervals.

While with the Redskins I incorporated a great deal more aerobic exercise during the off-season than I now do with the Texans. The majority of the energy used to play the game of football comes from two anaerobic energy systems, the ATP-PC system and the Lactic Acid system. Our off-season running program is designed to target these two systems.

The "average person" would be more apt to train aerobically. The goal of the average person is to burn more calories and improve cardiovascular fitness. Aerobic activity best accomplishes this.

Could the average person use our players interval running routines (sprint workouts)? The average person could use any of our sprint workouts but the average person does not have the need to develop the anaerobic levels of fitness that our players must have to play the game of football.

The purpose of our off-season running program is to develop an adequate level of fitness that allows our players to go to training camp in good enough shape to let them practice the game of football.

The only way a football player can develop the specific fitness level needed to play the game of football, is to actually practice and eventually play the game of football at game speed. Specificity of conditioning is a term used to describe this physiological phenomenon.

During our end of the year meeting with the players we give them a copy of our conditioning calendar. We have our weekly lifting and running schedule posted on this calendar. Our players know in advance their running schedule starting in March through the month of July.

Our first official team run is scheduled for March 22. The players will perform our Texans "110's" workout. A description of each of our running routines is listed in our Texans Players Strength and Conditioning Manual which can be downloaded from our website.

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Some of our players have already started some treadmill running which we use to help them get ready for their first team run outdoors. We start with longer distances at slower speeds and as we get closer to March 22 we decrease the running time and increase the treadmill speed.

Linebacker Kailee Wong (right) is currently running a routine we call 800's. He runs for two minutes and thirty seconds at 11 MPH and then rests for four minutes and thirty seconds. He will run three of the 800's.

You can tell when Kailee is warming up and when he is running hard. He is using the television monitor during his warm-up and removes the television when he is running hard.

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Our player's progress from the treadmill 800's to our Treadmill 400's. They run the 400's for two weeks and then run the Treadmill 200's for two weeks before going outside to run 110's on March 22.

Listed below is a description of our Treadmill 400's and Treadmill 200's.

400's

This workout can be performed running outside, on a treadmill, or on a stationary bike. The description below provides the guidelines we use to run 400's on our treadmills.

Treadmill Workout

Equipment used: Woodway treadmills

Exercise time: 60 seconds

Rest interval: 2 minutes 30 seconds

Speed: determined by your fitness level

Number of reps: 6

Volume of work: 1764 yards at 10 mph, 2640 yards at 15 mph

Your current fitness level will determine the treadmill speed. For safety, the fastest speed we recommend is 15 mph. At this point we begin increasing the elevation (2% grade) instead of the speed. Run for 60 seconds and dismount the treadmill. The rest interval is 2 minutes 30 seconds. We use 2 1/2 times the running time for recovery. Be prepared to get back on the treadmill at the end of the rest interval. Continue this process until you have finished six reps. Cool down at 3 mph for three minutes.

When you can complete all six at the same speed, increase the speed of the treadmill by 1/2 mph the next time you run 400's. This workout will take approximately 17 minutes to complete.

200's

This workout can be performed running outside, running on a treadmill, or riding a stationary bike. Below is a description of how we run 200's on our treadmills.

Treadmill workout

Equipment used: Woodway treadmill

Exercise time: 30 seconds

Rest interval: 1 minute 15 seconds

Speed: determined by your fitness level

Grade: determined by your fitness level

Number of reps: 10

Volume of work: 1500 yards. (at 10 mph) to 2000 yards (at 15 mph)

Your current fitness level will determine the treadmill speed. Run for 30 seconds and dismount the treadmill. The rest interval is 1 minute and 15 seconds. We use 2 1/2 times the running time for recovery. Be prepared to get back on the treadmill and begin running at the end of the rest interval. Continue this process until you have finished 10 reps. Cool down at 3 mph for three minutes.

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When you can complete ten reps at the same speed, increase the speed of the treadmill by 1/2 mph the next time you run 200's. For safety, the fastest speed we recommend is 15 mph. At that point we begin increasing the elevation instead of the speed. This workout will take approximately 17 minutes to complete.

The next time you drive by the stadium sneak a peek through the weight room window. You might see Kailee Wong or one of the other players looking out at you.

I am 6'5" tall and weigh 250 pounds. I am sixteen years old. I have been told I am tight in the hips and need to loosen up my hip flexors. I am told I will then be able to run faster and be more explosive. Is this true? How do I stretch my hip flexors?

-- Travis Carter

"Tight in the hips" or "stiff in the hips" is a term our coaches and scouts often use to describe a player they believe could be more athletic if he gained some flexibility in his hips. They assume the athlete would be more athletic if he increased the flexibility of his hips.

Last year during one of our personnel meetings we were discussing a particular player and the comment was made, he needs to improve the flexibility in the hips. "He's too stiff in the hips." I explained to the group that this particular player was very flexible in his hips and his lack of athletic ability had nothing to do with his flexibility.

I have been around hundreds of athletes. Some were very flexible and some were not. Some were very flexible but not very explosive or athletic. I do not know if your speed and explosiveness will be positively influenced by increasing your hip flexibility. I doubt that it will but you should give it a try.

There are several stretching exercises we use with our players to improve the flexibility of the hips and the hip flexors. * *

Check out guard Fred Weary below. The first photo is a stretch called the Spinal Twist. If performed properly it will help improve the flexibility of the muscles on the outside of your right hip. Mirror this stretch to stretch the muscles on the outside of your left hip.

The second photo is a stretch* *we call the Advanced Spinal Twist designed to stretch the muscles on the outside of your hips. It is a more demanding version of the Spinal Twist. Perform to the right and left.

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Now in the first photo below Fred demonstrates a stretch we call Drop Down on the Right Knee with the Left Leg Out Front. This is a good stretch for your right hip flexor. Notice the distance between Fred's right knee and left heel. Keep the torso vertical as you lean forward to stretch the hip flexor. Mirror this stretch to stretch the left hip flexor.

In the second photo Fred performs another stretch designed to stretch the hip flexors. We call it Kneel on both Knees and Elevate the Hips. It is important that you emphasize pushing your hips forward as far as possible (comfortably) before leaning backward. Leaning backwards will intensify the stretch on your hip flexors.

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Trainer Logan Merritt and strength coach Virgil Campbell demonstrate a stretch for the hip flexors. This is a great stretch for the right hip flexor. Mirror this position to stretch the left hip flexor.

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A table with adequate height is necessary to keep the stretched leg from touching the floor. Logan is pressing down on Virgil's right knee to enhance the stretch to the right hip flexor. Virgil's right leg is bent inward slightly and held in place with Logan's left leg.

We utilize a form of static stretching with all our stretches. Place the muscle into a position of a mild stretch and hold that stretch for a minimum of ten-seconds up to thirty-seconds. No bouncing or jerky movements. You have stretched the muscle too far if you feel a burning sensation or your breathing becomes irregular.

Finally, we recommend you engage in a total body stretching program, not just exercises for your hips and hip flexors.

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