This is a superb running drill for improving team working skills and promotes bonding within a group. If performed regularly then it is also a great way of simultaneously building the running capabilities of slower athletes in your team. Another happy consequence of this drill is that by taking the focus off running and asking the athletes to perform a task that requires concentration and communication you will find that you can get your athletes to cover some good ground and they won’t even notice how far they have run. Even athletes who claim to “hate running” will start telling you that they found it fun and they will begin to find running easier and grow to fear it less.
SET UP: Organise athletes into teams of six. Have the athletes line up one behind the other with about five meters spacing between each. With the exception of the front athlete everyone should be facing the back of the person in front.
STEP 1: SPACING DRILL
Start off by asking the athletes to run around a convenient run loop of between 300 and 500 meters. Ask them to keep the ground speed very low (so everyone can easily keep up) and focus entirely on maintaining exact spacing between them and the athlete in front. At Unit6 CrossFit we have painted lines on the floor outside the box. (You could just use cones or markers) These lines are five meters apart and we get the athletes to start on these lines. Each time they complete a lap and pass back over these lines it is easy to see how well they have maintained their spacing. We tell them that this is an open-ended task and they will keep running laps (all day if necessary) until they are able to maintain perfect spacing for two entire laps. Speed is completely irrelevant at this stage. Allow them to run as slow as they need. Just focus entirely on spacing. This motivates them to focus and we find that they quickly start to look like a team of clone robots within four laps. This is great – that is the desired effect. Trust your eyes if they look like one single well oiled machine, moving along with smooth and dreamy efficiency and identical stride pattern then they are ready for the next step. If you do this drill regularly which we recommend you do then you may want to add complexity and keep your athletes interested by adding in some low obstacles around the lap to jump, hurdle or vault over. Nothing too tricky – just something to interrupt their stride pattern. No matter what they find in their way they are still required to maintain perfect spacing at all times.
Photo: Athletes at Unit6 CrossFit practicing the Indian Relay Drill
STEP 2: INDIAN RELAY
Once your athletes are able to maintain perfect spacing have them move immediately on to this drill. On GO the team move off as above, maintaining perfect spacing and keeping group ground speed VERY low. As soon as the team has settled into a relaxed and synchronous pace the game begins!
Have the athlete at the back of the line sprint as fast as possible to the front of the line to take a place as then new line leader. As soon as he is exactly five meters in front of the previous line leader – who will now be in position 2 – the athlete now in position 2 shouts GO as loud as possible. This is the signal for the new back athlete to sprint to the front……and so on and so on…..the cycle repeats indefinitely. Pay close attention to keeping the group speed low enough that all of your team members can keep up. You can only go as fast as your slowest athlete can maintain. BUT encourage faster athletes to sprint as fast as they can when it is their turn to go from back to front. The group stays together and bonds as a team but everyone gets a hard running workout.
As your team becomes more and more comfortable travelling this way gradually push the pace and test your athletes over benchmark distances. We suggest regularly testing your team over 2k and occasionally 5K distances, and try the advanced option below.
It is said that this technique was used by certain Native American Indian tribes to cover large distances quickly. You will find it to be a great way of maintaining pace, and it certainly helps to keep all members of the group together and alert. After several laps your team should fall into a sort of hypnotic rhythm and may remark later that they felt like one machine rather than six individuals. This is the desired effect – your team are becoming ‘dialled in to each other’. Bingo.
STEP 3: INDIAN MED BALL RELAY
This version of the Indian Relay adds another level of complexity and requires greater communication. When seen performed by a really good team it is a thing of beauty to behold. Perform the Indian relay as detailed above but this time start with the line leader holding a medball. Once the line has settled into a nice rhythm the line leader throws the ball overhead to be caught by no.2 who then passes it immediately over his/her head to no.3 and so on until the ball gets to the back athlete in position six. When athlete six receives the ball he/she sprints to the new front position where the process repeats……potentially endlessly. At Unit6 CrossFit we regularly incorporate this drill into our team warmups. If any athlete drops the ball the whole team stops and completes ten synchro(6) burpees before carrying on.
Experiment with your own ideas and be sure to have fun. Please let us know if you come up with any variations that work well.
TEAM VIRTUOSITY DRILLS
The Indian Relay is just one of several Team Virtuosity Drills that you can find on this website. We advise using one of our Team Virtuosity Drills to warm up your team before you get stuck into the workout above. These drill are designed to get your team dialled-in to each other and working with smooth and dreamy synchronicity. These drills are great tools and should become a mandatory part of every team training session.
Your weekly dose of team virtuosity!
The aim of these weekly Tribal Smash workouts is to get your individual athletes working together like one single well oiled machine whilst challenging their fitness. Tribal Smash workouts are great fun and relevant to any aspiring team athletes whether they are on a Tribal Clash team or not.
If you are really serious about doing well at this year’s Tribal Clash then why not come along to one of our Team Virtuosity Workshops?