2 Workouts to Make You a Faster, More Powerful Runner

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by SELF
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2 Workouts to Make You a Faster, More Powerful Runner

It’s racing season—and you’re just a hop, skip and a jump away from running faster. Plyometric moves like squat jumps and single-leg hops build explosive power that makes you a speedier runner, according to new

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research in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. During the study, athletes did plyometrics three times a week. After 14 days, the participants’ ground contact time (how many milliseconds their feet spent on the ground per step) decreased significantly, resulting in more frequent strides and a faster pace (they shaved 2.1 percent off their sprint times). And an earlier study found that endurance runners significantly improved their pace after six weeks of plyo training.

Here’s where the boost comes from: Every time your foot pushes off the ground, your legs release energy to power you forward. Plyometrics strengthens muscles and recruits new ones to make your legs more efficient during that process. “Dynamic exercises train your muscles to exert considerable power in a short amount of time,” says Krzysztof Maćkala, the study’s lead researcher and a professor at the University School of Physical Education in Wroclaw, Poland. More power means more speed.

Bonus plyo payoff: Running is a high-impact activity, of course, but jumping exercises train your muscles to absorb the impact, upping your overall endurance. Meanwhile, “you’re teaching your nervous system and connective tissue to become more responsive,” says Andrew Kastor, head running coach for the Asics Mammoth Lakes track club in California. Strong, responsive legs are able to go the distance with less effort.

Ready to take the leap? Although research on female college athletes found that adding plyometrics to a training regimen helped them fend off injuries by improving joint health and stability, the moves are high-intensity. So start slow: Begin with two sessions a week, working up to longer, more frequent workouts. And phase out plyometrics beginning 10 days before a big race to maximize the benefits without overtaxing your body.

The Workouts

Jog 2 miles to warm up, then do one of the routines below, designed by Andrew Kastor, coach for the Mammoth Track Club. Do each workout once a week, adding 2 reps to the jump sets each week until you hit 12.

Workout 1

Alternating Lunge Jump

Stand with feet hip-width apart. Step left foot forward into a lunge, bending knees 90 degrees. Jump, switching legs to land in a lunge with right foot forward. Jump and switch legs again for 1 rep. Do 3 sets of 6 reps.

Single-Leg Jump

Stand on left leg with right foot lifted behind you. Extend arms out to sides for balance. Bend left knee, then jump as high as you can for 1 rep. Do 6 reps; repeat on opposite side for 1 set. Do 3 sets.

Reverse Run

Run backward for 15 seconds. (No room? Run backward a few steps, then turn around and repeat.) Do 3 sets.

Workout 2

Box Jump

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, facing a stable box or bench. Squat, then jump on top of box. Step each foot down for 1 rep. Do 3 sets of 6 reps.

Toe Tap

Stand with a medicine ball on the floor in front of you. Jump, landing with right toes on ball, then immediately jump again and switch feet, tapping left toes on top. Continue for 15 seconds. Do 3 sets.

Skip

Stand with feet hip-width apart. Jump forward, driving right knee to chest and left arm forward (as if you were running); immediately repeat on opposite side. Continue for 15 seconds. Do 3 sets.

About the Author

SELF
SELF

SELF is the magazine that makes living healthy easy and fun. SELF’s motto: Being fit, strong and active means feeling great, being happy and looking your most beautiful. With trademark authority, SELF speaks to women about three key areas of her being: her body, her looks and her life. SELF makes it fun and fulfilling to be your happiest, healthiest, best self. Reaching a total audience of 12 million each month, SELF is the founder of the Pink Ribbon for breast cancer awareness and an ASME National Magazine Award winner for excellence in journalistic achievement in print and digital. SELF is published by Condé Nast, publisher of Vogue, Vanity Fair, Bon Appétit, GQ, Glamour, The New Yorker, Wired and other celebrated media brands. Visit Self.com and follow @SELFmagazine on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Foodily and Google+.

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