Life’s a Drag

Posted: May 16, 2012 in Equipment, Run
Tags: , ,

I have an interesting training dilemma.  Upon a little course investigation I’ve learned that the Ironman Wales run is hilly. I mean, really, duh…its Wales jackass.  But that’s not the dilemma.  The dilemma part comes when I take into consideration that where I live now is totally flat, like, pancake flat.  No longer is it convenient to just take a five minute drive to the Shorthills or follow any number of my old running routes that wound their way up and down the Niagara Escarpment.  But now there’s not even so much as an overpass here in Ridgeway.  Seriously, if you cut down all the trees you could see clear across from Port Colborne to Fort Erie on the opposite west side of the peninsula.  Fuck.  What’s a determined triathlete to do?

“Wait’ll they get a load of me!”

So after a little brainstorming and research, I thought, hey, ‘I wonder if there’s a way I can simulate hills?’ or, similarly condition myself to cope with them as best I can given the complete lack of elevation here.  While Googling this concept, I stumbled upon a unique training method idea used by Ultra Endurance runners like Marshall Ulrich*.  I’m referring to something known as a ‘tire drag’ and it’s exactly what it sounds like.  And if my current new neighbors thought I was crazy before, just wait till they get a load of me running down the street dragging a huge ass tire behind me.  What can I say? My life lately is ‘Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride’.

According to my research, using a tire drag is one of the best forms of sport-specific cross-training a runner can do.

When you pull a tire, you change the points of resistance and load on your body, and you train your muscles in a way that’s slightly different from your regular running gait.  By doing this, you get core and strength training while you run, along with the bonus of entraining your mind with your body as you put one foot in front of the other. In other words, your body and mind work constantly to make micro changes in your gait, working together to keep you upright and moving forward in an unbalanced situation.”

The major benefits of tire drags include:

  1. It’s better than “regular” running: its lower impact requires you to run upright, recruits muscles you don’t normally use, and more intensely works out your calves, quads, and upper body.  And since I have little time to visit the gym anymore to do weights, this will provide a good lower body strengthening drill.
  2. It targets some of the hard-to-tone muscles like abs and glutes. Nothing like it for the stomach and butt!  Hey, who couldn’t use washboard abs and an ass you could crack walnuts on?
  3. Pulling a tire trains you to run using the midsection. After training this way, you’ll run from your core even when you aren’t pulling the tire.
  4. Helps improve your running form.
  5. It simulates running hills, which is especially helpful if you live in a flat place but need to train for a hilly course, as I do.
  6. You’ll strengthen your knees and improve overall balance.

Oh yeah, this sounds swell. Of course, I must have a screw loose somewhere, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Okay, so now to put this newfangled contraption together.  It sounded easy enough. All I had to procure was a tire (in fact, I got two – the front and back – from a motorcycle), a leather weight belt, nylon rope or cord, a stiff bungee cord with carabiners on the end, a quarter-inch washer, and a drill.  Minus the drill which I already have access to, and the tires which were donated by the local motorcycle shop Clare’s, and the weight belt which I found cheap on EBay, the rest came to a total of $13.86 from the local hardware store.

Step 1

1.  Punch a hole through the weight belt in the back, through the padding on the top and bottom, and thread a piece of nylon rope/cord behind the padding.  Loop it around the back of the belt and tie securely, leaving an inch slack or gap between the back of the belt and the cord.

Step 2

2.  Attach the bungee cord to the rope/cord on the weight belt using the carabiner.

Step 3

3.  Attach another piece of nylon cord or rope to the other end of the bungee cord by making a loop in the cord and attaching it to the carabiner.

Step 4

4.  Drill a hole in the center of the tire that’s just big enough for the cord to be punched through with a Phillips screwdriver or something similar (my tool of choice was my girlfriend’s father – no offense intended, Rick, thanks for the help!).

Step 5

5.  Thread the rope/cord through a quarter-inch washer and then tie a double or triple knot (one on top of the other), big enough so it won’t pull back through the hole in the tire.

Step 6

6.  Get ready to kick ass, or have your ass kicked…depending on how you look at it.

Now that you’re ready to get medieval on your running legs and muscles, I recommend finding a long stretch of gravely road as it offers the least amount of resistance against the tire.  Fortunately, I live in the country so this isn’t a problem.  If you’re a suburbanite, you can use it along a paved surface but be prepared for maximum suckage as there will be minimal resistance between the ground and tire…trust me.  Whatever you do, I certainly do not recommend using any trail unless you’re either a complete idiot or glutton for punishment.

Once you’ve chosen your training terrain and you’re ready to go, pull from your midsection in a purposeful manner.  Envision a string drawing you forward from your navel.  Stay upright and with your shoulders back to open the chest and airways, and keep your chin up and your eyes looking forward down the road while pumping with your arms bent at a 90-degree angle.  Lift your legs high and perhaps use a shorter stride for form, or longer stride for power.  Who am I kidding?  Just stay alive.

Here, let me give you a visual:


So how did it feel?  Honestly, exactly as one might expect to feel while running up a steep hill.  Most notably I felt my glutes and hamstrings working at maximum capacity.  Even in the brief session (click to view results) I did to simply familiarize myself with the process, I felt like I just had a full leg workout session at the gym.  Going forward, I’m going to try and incorporate this kind of drill into my training schedule at least once a week, starting small (4k) and adding to it slowly over time as the summer progresses.  I am banking that by Ironman time this September my legs will look like tree trunks and will have more that enough power to drive me over that rolling Welsh countryside.  Well, fingers crossed anyway.

*In fact, I literally stole the instructions on how to rig up a tire drag from his Dreams in Action website.

  1. beebsmom says:

    being on the other side of the camera was obviously the easier part of this workout !

    Honestly though, it wasn’t quite the show I had expected it to be 🙂

  2. Carolyn says:

    This is crazy Terry. I must say, this is some determination. I’d get my ass in the car and drive an hour to the hills. Or are you far, far away now?

  3. Jeff says:

    It’s so awesome that you can simulate that! Great find.
    Once word of caution; watch out for small roots and especially the left over ‘stumps’ from old street signs. They are often metal and only sticking up 3-4 inches or so…just perfect for catching your tire as you’re rounding a corner need to be eating more gravel than you have to! I suppose you could try putting a cover on one side of the tire….might screw up the resistance too much though (then again by experimenting you might find something that lets you increase/decrease it to suit your workout) Enjoy!

  4. I did another tire drag along the quiet, gravelly Matthews Road in Sherkston today. Mid-pull, I passed by a farmer’s field with a single donkey in it. The donkey was looking at me dragging my huge ass tire in the blazing sun as if to say: “And they call me an ASS?”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s