By Soji James, CPT, CSCS
Spring is such a beautiful time of the year. The sun is out, temperatures have warmed up, and it’s a great opportunity to go out and enjoy the crisp air instead of having to endure cold weather running.
However, spring this year has been much different for most due to the social distancing and quarantining as an effect of the coronavirus.
But that doesn’t mean you have to just abandon your spring fitness plans. Even if you do not feel comfortable or can’t go outside to run, other types of training, like plyometric exercises, can actually help you increase your speed once you’re able to lace up your running shoes again.
You might be wondering, what are plyometrics? These types of workouts are actually some of the best cardio exercises you can do for any sport, especially ones with a lot of running.
Plyometric training helps optimize the body’s explosive ability and athleticism by training your neurotransmitters and fast-twitch muscle fibers.
Rather than a specific set of exercises, plyometric training is actually taking current workouts you already do and just performing them in a manner that’s plyometric. This means you’re able to adapt your current workouts, even if they’re done at home, to build strength and speed that will help with your running.
The ability for your muscles to be more explosive and stronger will boost your running speed and overall race time. It’s important with plyometric exercises to work out at full speed. Not doing so won’t optimally train your muscles.
A good basic plyometric workout incorporates both double and single-leg jumps. Start out with a few repetitions of a long jump for height and distance, and then progress to jumps from the ground up on a box. Aim to make the box’s height eighteen to twenty-four inches, but feel free to start out lower to train your legs to quickly jump on and off. Remember, speed is vital.
Other key plyometric exercises include tuck jumps, where you jump and bring the knees to the chest, and long two-legged hops with multiple consecutive jumps. These basic plyometric moves will improve the strength and speed of the muscles of your calf, hip, and quad—all of which help you when it comes time to run.
Some runners are also interested in optimizing their explosiveness across their upper body. Arms that pump faster help those who run shorter distances move quickly. Losing fat and building muscle across the body will often help cultivate better endurance and strength while running any distance.
The plyo pushup is great for building cardiovascular fitness for runners since the exercise quickly increases a person’s heart rate while strengthening muscles in the chest, abs, triceps, and shoulders.
To do a proper plyo pushup, start out in a plank or pushup position, then move down like a normal pushup. As you go back up, do so with enough energy so your hands leave the ground. Some choose to quickly clap before their hands hit the floor for added intensity.
The important part is to quickly and forcefully push up so your hands are off the ground. Aim to perform five to ten reps for a couple of sets to reap the most benefit. If that gets too easy, increase the rep and set amount.
Plyometrics can be an integral part of a runner’s training regime that equips them for a race. However, there’s plenty of other tips and tricks to keep in mind to enhance your running ability.
Find The Right Shoe: The right running shoe is going to help support your feet and ankles. Make sure to find a shoe specialist who can offer recommendations based on your gait and mileage amount. Don’t always trust the advice of fellow runners.
Focus On Running Outdoors: In a time of social distancing, there’s nothing wrong with a treadmill. But always try to run outside as much as you can to best simulate the environment you might find if you do eventually run a race.
Vary Up Your Training: Just running the same distance each time is going to hinder your progress. Integrate plyometric workouts with a mixture of long and short runs at different speeds to strengthen your legs and lungs.
Pace Yourself As A Beginner: Beginning runners should aim to just run three times per week as they start out. Increasing your time or mileage too quickly is a surefire way to get injured or burn out. Consistency is the most important aspect for all successful runners.
Watch For The Signs Of Overtraining: If you’ve been going strong as a runner and suddenly run into bouts of fatigue and chronic soreness, you might be training too much and overwhelming your body. To get back on track, take a few rest days or vary up your workouts with some cross-training. Remember, the rest day can be just as valuable in building your body as a day out running.
Tackle Those Hills: Sure, no runner enjoys going up hills. But every racer knows they’ll encounter one at some point. Try to run hills as much as you can while training to strengthen your body.
What About Barefoot Running? Many argue for the benefits of barefoot running. Others argue the opposite. Ultimately, barefoot running is a trend that you will have to make a decision on yourself based on your running goals and health of your feet.
Spending some time focusing on plyometric exercises can reap big dividends when it comes to running. Many find they’re able to run faster and have more endurance since their cardiovascular system is stronger.
Box jumps and other intense movements are easy to do inside the home while you’re stuck during the quarantine. Many plyometric exercises offer a great workout in a short amount of time.