“Mom, I need to get faster on my feet or Ultimate Frisbee,” Jasper (16) said, lounging on the couch and nudging me with his foot. “How do I do that?”
“Jumping and faster leg turn over,” I said, looking up from the book I was reading. He sighed.
“I hate jumping,” he said. I made the, that sucks to be you face, and turned my attention back to my book.
“I need someone to do it with me.” He smiled and again nudged me with his foot. Now, I made the , that sucks to be me face.
Plyometric exercises sprang out of USSR in the 1970s (figures, doesn’t it? USSR turns out some tough athletes). The idea behind plyometric exercises is that running is a series of jumps from one foot to the other. Over a mile a person takes anywhere from 1900 steps (twelve min. mile) to 1100 steps (six min. mile). Your hip, knee, and ankle essentially act like a spring as you land and propel your body up and forward. Plyometric’s build off of this principle and work to strengthen your muscles and tendons, which allow you to become like Tigger bouncing on his tail.
Plyometric exercises, as you can probably guess, are an intense workout, and like all things running, you have to start small. Five to ten minutes weekly is all it takes for the first few weeks. After two or three weeks you can increase your sets or find a more difficult workout. There are a ton of workouts online. I got this one from Runnersconnect.com. It is important that your muscles are sufficiently warmed up before you do plyometric exercise. The explosive character of them can cause damage if your muscles are cold.
Twenty squat jumps: feet shoulder width apart, jump as high as possible off both feet; land in a slight squat and with minimal ground contact time.
Twenty tuck jumps: same as a squat jump but bring your knees as high as possible. Remain upright and avoid bending at the waist.
Twenty lateral squat/tuck jumps: same as the squat/tuck jumps only traveling sideways.
Twenty lunge jumps: start in a lunge position jump as high as possible and switch leg position in midair. Minimize your ground contact time.
Twenty side hops: stand on your left foot with your left knee slightly bent and your right foot elevated; jump as high as you can and land on the right foot; with minimal ground contact time.
Twenty turning hops: this is the same as side hops, but do a quarter turn with each change.
Twenty bounding steps: this is exaggerated skipping motion focusing on a powerful leap into the air.
I completed this after my intervals this morning. The squat jumps and the tuck jumps were the most difficult. It took about five minutes to get through all of these. Jasper is not excited about these, and he is in good company. Despite the proven benefits of plyometric exercises to runners, they continue to be as hated as the burpee is by cross-fitters.
As for leg turnover, the best way to increase leg turnover is to run 30 second all out springs. Start with 4-6 with full recover in between and work your way up to 8-10 x 30 seconds all out sprints in a run and reduce the recovery time. You are not going to get full recovery during a race or an Ultimate Frisbee game. The research shows that doing 30 second sprints 4-6 weeks before a race two times a week and you will see improvement in anaerobic fitness, fatigue resistance, and power production.
Jasper is super excited about getting started on these too. No he’s not, but he loves his team and his mom(me) loves him so she will suck it up and embrace the Tigger and the Turbo Snail hidden inside.
Some exciting and sad news, I will be running the Utah Valley Marathon this Saturday with my good friend Jeff who paced me for the last twenty miles of my 100 mile run in April. I wasn’t planning on running Utah Valley, but a good friend is injured and unable to run and doesn’t want to leave Jeff to go at it alone, so I’m in. So excited but also sad for my friend who is unable to run.