We've been blogging over the last few weeks about run training and specifically how to put your training plan together for 2018. You can join in the discussions on our Facebook run coaching group.
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So in last week's EPIC blog post, we discussed why 'short arses' such as myself can run as quick as people with longer legs and in summary... plyometric energy and 'flight time' was a key factor. You can read the full blog post HERE if you missed it.
The 'bounce' when you run is created by your tendons. Unlike muscles, tendons don't use oxygen, so runners who use their tendons to bounce use less oxygen and have a lower heart rate. If your tendons have poor elasticity and don't bounce, then you rely more on your muscles to move your limbs. Muscles use oxygen, so 'non-bouncers' use more oxygen.
There's been lots of research which has shown that a simple set of plyometric exercises can significantly improve your running economy (reduce oxygen use).
Ageing leads to a deterioration in the elasticity of tendons, which is one of the reasons why we slow down as we get older. Running, unlike some other sports, requires a certain amount of tendon elasticity for good economy.
What are plyometric exercises?
Plyometric exercises are anything which involve 'bouncing'. Simple skipping exercises as completed by many boxers, place you on the balls of your feet and encourage you to bounce lightly up and down, this is basic plyometric training. Bouncing up and down (both feet simultaneously) would also be a plyometric exercise, so long as there is no pause between each bounce. If you were to jump, land and then following a brief pause jump again.. this would not be plyometric. The movement must be continuous and you should feel 'springy'.
Conducting a routine
Start by warming up for 15 minutes building to a moderate intensity, then complete a short dynamic stretch routine to fully prepare you for the plyometrics.
1. Start with 2 footed bouncing on the spot, keep the intensity low to warm up and progress to bouncing forwards for a distance of 10 metres. Complete this 3 times building from easy to moderate and then hard intensity. Aim to bounce a little higher on each one rather than trying to bounce further forwards. The bouncing movement should be continuous with no pause as you hit the ground, imagine the floor to be a mini-trampoline.
2. Hop on one foot over a distance of 5 metres then change legs and complete a further 5 metres (10m total). Complete this 3 times building from easy to moderate and then hard intensity. Aim to bounce a little higher on each one rather than trying to bounce further forwards. The bouncing movement should be continuous with no pause as you hit the ground, imagine the floor to be a mini-trampoline. During the hopping you should try to hold good body posture and not allow your hips and torso to drop or twist.
3. Jog to a start point then over a 10 metre course aim to 'bound' as far as possible per stride. use your arms to assist you by driving as hard as possible, thereby providing propulsion. Each time you bound you should land on your forefoot and spring into your next stride. Your objective is to bound as far as possible each stride, but your first repetition should be easy, the next moderate and the final one hard.
4. Jog to start point then over a 10m course aim to 'bound' as high as possible per stride. use your arms to assist you by driving as hard as possible, thereby providing propulsion. Drive your knee as high as possible to gain height. Each time you bound you should land on your forefoot and spring into your next stride. Your objective is to bound as far as high as possible each stride, but your first repetition should be easy, the next moderate and the final one hard.
5. Jump off a small box or step and land on both feet (forefoot landing). As you land, you should immediately 'explode' upwards as high as possible into a tuck jump. There should be no pause as you land, it should be one 'bouncing' movement. Start with a small step and keep the intensity low, progress to moderate and then high over a series of weeks. By completing this routine you can enhance your plyometric power, which is known to improve both running speed and economy.
To add the exercises into your routine, warm up as outlined above and then complete the plyometric exercises before you start your training session. Alternatively, you could do them on a separate day or at the gym.
INJURY WARNING!! Plyometrics carry a high injury risk. This schedule is beneficial for runners of all ages and standards but those carrying injuries or those who are injury prone (in particular lower limb) should start at lower intensities and seek advice. You don't have to do a high volume of plyometrics, only a small amount of good quality exercises.
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