Fortunately, running more miles is no longer the only way to get faster.
Busy runners who want to get the most out of their training time should consider incorporating plyometrics exercises into their training programs. Originally developed as a training method for Olympic athletes, plyometrics is designed to improve speed and power. Plyometrics training focuses on moving rapidly from a muscle extension (eccentric phase) to muscle contraction (concentric phase) in a process called the stretch-shortening cycle. In other words, plyometrics enables muscles to exert maximal force in a short period of time.
For runners, the benefits of performing plyometrics exercises are numerous. Studies have shown that plyometrics not only improves speed, explosive strength, agility, and endurance, it also boosts running economy, or how efficiently the body uses oxygen.
The following are some examples of simple plyometrics exercises to do at home:
Single leg hops: Hop up and down on one leg, landing gently on the ball of the foot
Jump squats: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, lower hips into the squat position, then engage the core and jump up. Land gently on the balls of the feet and roll back onto the heels while returning to the squat position.
Box jumps: Stand in front of a plyo box or an aerobic bench with feet shoulder-width apart. Squat down slightly, enable the core, drive out the hips, and jump onto the box, using the arms for balance and added momentum. Jump backwards off the box to return to the original quarter-squat position.
Those new to plyometrics should begin with a twice-a-week program consisting of simple, low-intensity plyometrics exercises like the ones above. Runners should pay attention to proper form and take proper safety precautions when performing plyometrics. While plyometrics is not inherently dangerous, as with any exercise, there is always a risk of injury when routines are not done correctly. If in doubt, or for a more comprehensive plyometrics training plan, runners should seek the advice of a running coach or trainer.