Plyometrics are one of the most valuable tools runners can have at their disposal. They are defined as “a system of of exercise(s) in which the muscles are repeatedly stretched and suddenly contracted.” The goods news that includes running. Yes, running itself can be a plyometric exercise, especially sprinting. The second piece of good news about plyometric work is that it’s tons of fun while benefiting your running in several ways.
Those benefits include building power, strength and coordination. Explosive exercises have been shown to increase your running economy and speed more than dynamic weight training. How? Jumping requires lots of fast twitch muscle fibers to work together. The advantage of training fast twitch fibers to work is that it teaches muscles to generate more power. The more force you put into the ground the less time you spend there. Less time on the ground means a faster finish in your next time trial.
Plyometrics also teach our bodies to use oxygen more efficiently. If a muscle can generate lots of power or force quickly it’s going to be more efficient at any speed or effort level. Yet another advantage? You’re likely to be a little less sore after a good hard plyo workout than you might be after a heavy weight training session.
To start your plyometric program, find things to jump on, over and up. Boxes, agility ladders, stairs, hills or even nothing at all will give you plenty to work with. Examples of exercises include box jumps, jumping rope, agility ladder drills, bounding and skipping. Jump squats, jumping lunges, single leg hops and broad jumps are other useful options.
The variety of exercises you can include in your plyometrics routine is endless. Find and consult with a qualified coach to begin your plyometric training and see better finish times in just a few weeks.
Professional runners across all disciplines get an off season. Whether they’re choosing to compete at certain times of the year or their sport predetermines it, they are sure to take time off between seasons. For those of us who aren’t professional athletes, however, options to compete carry on all year long. You can run a 5k every single weekend if you want to but you can’t race one.
If you’re just out there to get moving every time you toe the line, odds are you aren’t training at a very high level. You might run for fun. You might just run with friends. If, on the other hand, you’re an age group or contending athlete your training is intense. The more intense each training cycle is the more likely you are to need an off season. Here are three reasons why.
Recover. Injury prevention is a big reason to take an off season. Our bodies cannot continue indefinitely to be beat up the way they are when we train and race hard all year long. Work load is dramatically decreased, especially running, during the off season. Both our minds and bodies need a break from the constant barrage of stimuli that come along with a hard training cycle.
Repair. Take the time now to deal with any lingering issues. See that physical therapist you’ve been putting off. Get massages and take bubble baths. Build strength in the muscles that got you through race season. Eliminate weak spots and work towards strength goals that will help you run faster next race season.
Plan. Goal setting is incredibly important. Use this down time to look back at how your season went. Why did it go that way? Put time and effort in determining what went well and what didn’t rather than nailing each workout. Decide what races you’ll target during your next training cycle and how to best prepare for them. Set realistic goals based on past performances.
Taking an off season can be a wonderful training tool and a welcome break. It’s the time to relax and have fun while letting your body heal and prepare for the next cycle of hard work.
Taper week, or weeks, can be challenging. You’ll feel stir crazy without your normal work load. Your legs will feel weak, maybe even jelly like. You’ll be exercising and eating less to maintain your ideal race weight. The taper crazies are a marathon staple and while they’re almost unavoidable, you can use these tips from Team ECRP to keep them at bay the best you can.
Get intense. Running fast is fun. Speed work should always be a part of your training plan and the week before your goal race is time to ramp it up. You’ll decrease your overall training load but more workouts will include serious speed and intensity. That means more fun.
Stay calm. It sounds silly but staying relaxed during the days leading up to your race is very important. You want to keep sleep quality high, stress low and your diet the same. Develop a flexible plan for race day that accounts for potential weather, parking and clothing mishaps. The more prepared you are the less likely you are to let something get in the way of your performance.
Trust the plan. You’ve put in the work. By the time taper week comes around any workout you do won’t give you major gains anyway. While that increased intensity will help get your nervous system in order, it can take up to six weeks for other workouts to have measurable benefits. Believe in the work you’ve done.
Find an alternative. With all the extra taper week non-workout time you’ll have, grab that book you’ve been looking at longingly for the last 10-15 weeks. Binge watch that show you’ve been hearing about (we might recommend Game of Thrones).
The two most important things during taper week, however, are to keep focused on your goal and trust your training.
Race week is stressful. What’s the weather doing? How early do I need to get to the start? Is there parking? It’s even worse if you’re traveling. Will my flight be on time? Does the hotel have an airport shuttle? Is parking free? Luckily having a solid week leading up race day can help ease some of the race day stress. These are some of Team ECRP‘s go to race week workouts to ensure a stress-free morning and successful race day.
Best done two or three days before race day, these short repeats focus on form and quality. Race week is for sharpening up your body for hard work, not for making gains. Throwing short bursts of speed into your otherwise lower mileage week maintains your fitness without additional stress.
400M Repeats – After a full 2 mile warm up complete 4 x 400M repeats at 2k pace with 2 minutes of very easy jogging or fast walking in between. Running this workout faster than 5k pace will make your race day pace feel like a breeze.
Short Sprints – This is one of our favorite race week workouts because we still get to cover some miles. Performed at faster than race pace to keep those strides long and powerful, these 30 second efforts are tons of fun. Run your normal full 2 mile warm up then complete 8-10 repeats of 30 seconds at mile race pace with 5 minutes of easy jogging.
Alternating 200s – This workout alternates 200M of work with 200M of very easy jogging. Complete a full warm up of at least 2 miles before starting 8-10 repetitions of 200M at 5k pace and 200M at recovery pace.
Easy Run – No matter what workout you choose to do, you’ll need an off or rest day before your race. A shakeout run the morning before you toe the line is a staple for most runners. It allows you run easy while getting muscles moving and blood flowing without depleting any glycogen stores or extra energy.
Mix and match these race week workouts for each 5k you’re tackling or find one you like and stick with it or mix it up each time. Either way, make sure you have fun and remember to save it for race day.