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Plyometric Drills for Runners

14 Mar

“Jump around! Jump around! Jump up! Jump up and get down!” ~ House of Pain

If you want to increase speed as a runner, a good place to start is by incorporating plyometric drills into your weekly run workouts. A lot of new runners look at adding drills to your workouts as something that only “serious runners” do, but runners of all levels can reap benefits from jumping, leaping, and skipping! (And don’t worry, it is totally okay if doing these drills makes you feel like a kid again!) I started doing plyometric workouts about a year and half ago when I was going through the running study at the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training and I have seen serious improvement. While I fell off the wagon with doing these exercises while I was pregnant (not a good idea for pregnant ladies to go jumping around), it is time for them to reappear on my training schedule!

“[Plyometrics] teaches the proprioceptors of your muscles and joints to push off the ground with greater force.” ~ Donald Chu, Ph.D., Jumping Into Kinetics

The many benefits of including plyometrics in your training include increasing your speed, increasing your flexibility and agility, improving your running coordination, and decreasing your likelihood of injury. In addition to these benefits, one major advantage to adding plyometrics to your routine is that it does not add much time to your training. Many plyometric drills can be incorporated into your schedule by only adding a few minutes to each workout.

Distance runners are most likely to benefit from plyometric workouts. As distance runners, our running economy is directly proportional to our muscle’s ability to use oxygen efficiently. Plyometric workouts utilize different types of muscles (fast-twitch) than are used in distance running. The quick, powerful bursts of movement increase the speed of your muscle contractions and boost your speed performance. When both types of muscles (slow-twitch and fast-twitch) are strengthened, you will find that you will reach the point of fatigue much later than a runner who only works on distance runs. Thus, your running economy improves. Plyometric training will helps distance runners use their muscles most efficiently.

To reap maximum benefits from plyometric training, you only have to add drills to your workouts 1 or 2 times per week! There are lots of plyometric exercises out there, but here are a few of my favorites:

A-SKIPS

B-SKIPS

BUTT KICKS

BOX JUMPS
(Please keep in mind that you do NOT have to start out jumping as high as is seen in this video. You can start much lower, on a step or curb, for example, and increase height as you get stronger.)

Here is an example workout schedule that would build up your plyometric abilities over 5 weeks. Starting out slow might help you build your strength and coordination. Try and incorporate each weeks’s workout twice per week! As you progress in your training, you can always add other plyometric exercises. You can view and print a list of additional exercises here, or click here to download a .pdf.

Keep in mind that it is best to do plyometric drills on dirt, grass, soft tracks, or cushioned floors…you know, just in case you do lose your footing.

Do YOU incorporate plyometric training into your workouts? If so, how have you seen improvement? What other plyometric exercises do YOU do?

Easy, Quick Strength Training

9 Jan

Resolve to lose weight, get stronger, or get fitter in the new year?  Guess what?  Me too!  Here is the good news…we can do it together!

 
When I found out that I was pregnant, I had *just* gotten my body into what I considered my peak racing shape and had FINALLY attained a weight I was really proud of.  Learning of my pregnancy changed everything.  I could not do the same kind of strength training as I did before and I had to scale back on everything.  Over the course of my pregnancy, I gained a total of 60 pounds.  (On a side note, can you just imagine how much weight I would have gained if I had not stayed active and eaten right?  YOWZA!)  Breastfeeding/pumping and birthing my little bowling ball has taken off 30 pounds, but I still have 30 pounds that has been sitting idly on this frame for the last two weeks.  Not a change on the scale…AT ALL.  
 
You know what that means!  It is time to kick the excuses to the curb and get down to business!  It is time to add strength training to my cardio.  Doing all of this cardio is great for my heart and level of endurance, but it is the strength training that is going to really tone, reshape my body, and take off the inches.  
 
Alright, so let’s get to work! 
 
(…in my nest used car salesman voice…)
No access to a gym?  NO PROBLEM!
No free weights at home? NO PROBLEM!
Limited on time?  NO PROBLEM!
 
Here are some exercises you can do at home…either all at one time…or as you can throughout the day.  Add this workout a couple of times a week and you will see some results!  Enjoy!
 
50 Crunches
50 Side Leg Lifts     (25 on each side; done lying on the floor)
50 Bicycles
25 Slow Squats
15 Sumo Squats     (Toes and knees pointed out; slower is better!)
50 Calf Raises
100 Arm Cirlces     (50 on each arm)
15 Push-Ups     (Stay off your knees if you can!)
50 Jumping Jacks
1 Minute Plank     (Keep your butt down for good form!)
 
These are quick, easy, “no excuse” exercises.  On a side note, this is a GREAT series of exercises to do in a hotel room or if you travel a lot.  It is important to stay fit, even when you are on the go!
 
What did YOU resolve to do in the new year?  Are you making an effort to get stronger or get fitter?  If so, what are you doing to make this goal happen?
 

New Infant Swing = Lunges and Blogging!

14 Dec

My child has what a friend of mine delightfully refers to as a “witching hour.” I swear, like clockwork, my kiddo starts crying at 5:30PM on the dot and does not stop until 8:30PM. All afternoon long, I watch the clock start nearing the 5:30PM mark and I start getting antsy…knowing the wailing is coming.

Many of my friends suggested we get a swing for Baby Key since he seems to love motion. The only way we could calm him was to walk around and sway him or if I put him on my chest in the Moby wrap. While I enjoy holding my baby or wearing him close to me, sometimes I need a break. Sometimes I need the use of both hands. Dare I say it, sometimes I just need a moment away from my baby. This does not make me a bad mother, does it?

Last night, I pretty much had it. Granted, around the 8:30PM, he finally quieted, but those 3 hours are completely exhausting. I needed help. I decided that come hell or high water, the Keys were getting an infant swing. We NEED it.

So, this morning, at 7:00AM, I was walking through the doors of Babies R Us. (Can you believe that Babies R Us opens at 7:00AM during the holidays? And that next week they start being open 24-hours a day through Christmas day? That’s insane!) I was on a mission. This lady needed an infant swing.

I did a little research and decided the Fisher-Price Snugabunny Swing was the swing for us. Unfortunately, the $169.99 price tag was a bit steep for us, especially right here at the holidays. When I looked online, however, the website showed it for $129.99. Thankfully, the store honored the online price, and with $15 in gift cards, the swing was now in a more acceptable price range. HALLELUJAH! Armed with my new swing, I returned home, praying it would soothe my little one.

As soon as I got home, Mr. Key was ready to put it together. In a matter of moments, Baby Key was in it and quiet…cooing and gurgling…and, dare I say, content. It was a miracle! Since my child was born, the only time my child has been out of someone’s arms is when he is sleeping at night. He cries and acts fretful and is so hard to soothe. However, THIS is what happens with a comfortable infant swing…
Sleeping soundly!
SUCCESS! Do you see that!? THAT is a sleeping baby! WOOT!

Okay, so I know lots of other mothers have children that sleep in infant swings, but do you realize what this implies? This means that for brief periods of time, I can do something other than hold a baby. Even if I can get half an hour at a time out of this thing, I can find a way to be productive.

Squats in the living room.
Lunges up and down the hallway.
Free weights to work my arms.

And yes, even a few minutes to write my blogs! Woo hoo!

If I cannot get outside right now to go run with Baby Key, at least I can get in mini strength training workouts while he sleeps in the swing. I know that in returning to my pre-baby fitness level, I will have to do a lot more than just cardio and finding the time to work in long runs AND strength training is hard.

This swing may be a total game changer for me.

So long, flabby arms.
So long, untoned quads.
So long, weak calves.
Hello, semi-regular blogging!
You know, until I really get the hang of this mom thing…

I am armed with an infant swing. And right now, that makes me feel invincible. Look, I know that sounds ridiculous, but my kid is happy and quiet, so right now, that makes me Super Mom.

Pre-baby body, slowly but surely, I’m coming for you. Watch out. Mama is back!

Post-Baby Core Recovery Plan

14 Oct

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

Every runner knows that to be fast, having a strong core is absolutely essential. Even though it is still a little early and yesterday’s doctor appointment shows that Baby Key is not “in the process” yet, I still want to have a plan for starting the process of regaining my core strength immediately after he is born.

Thanks to a little protein hormone called relaxin, in addition to my growing belly, my hips and pelvis have also widened. I am not terribly happy about that, but luckily there are ways to help get my body back on the road to recovery as soon as possible after the baby arrives. However, you can also use relaxin to your advantage. In the 6-8 weeks post-partum, your body is still producing this hormone, and here are certain products that, if used in this time frame, can help you “put your body back together” in a safe way.

Note: I am aware that some readers may feel that my methods could possibly be considered extreme or unnecessary, but please remember that this is MY body and this is MY plan. What works for me may or may not work for you. The use of these products is not purely for vanity reasons in wanting to “look” like my pre-pregnancy self, but more about regaining muscle control and feeling strong again.

COMPRESSION

Belly Bandit
Immediately after the baby is born, I plan to start wearing the Belly Bandit Bamboo. I have done a lot of research about this product and from what I can tell, it seems to be the softest and most comfortable abdominal binder. In addition to helping shrink the belly, waist, and hips, the Belly Bandit also supports the upper body while breastfeeding and gently persuades the abdominal muscles to move back together. It also stabilizes the pelvic floor and supports the spine. I plan to wear this all of the time, unless I am exercising or doing an activity that would cause me to sweat.

ShrinxHips
In concept, this is a similar product to the abdominal binder, except that it is for the hips. Stabilizing and returning pelvic joints to their pre-pregnancy position will allow me to get back to running sooner. In using the hip stabilizers, the goal is to help turn my hip sockets completely back forward in to the correct position (the legs-turned-out pregnancy waddle is not a myth, my friends!) so that returning to running is as easy as possible. Since it is a softer material, I plan to wear this during the day.

Hip Slimmer
Break out the big guns! See those laces? This contraption ain’t no joke. Conceptually, this product is similar to the ShrinxHips except that it seems to provide a bit more binding action. The reviews I have read about this product completely prepare me for this to be uncomfortable. However, the reviews also so that it really works. It seems that it is easiest to put when there are two sets of hands available, so I plan to wear this one at night.

Compression Tank
I have not completely decided on a brand or style for a compression tank, so for this, my options are still open. When I am able to return to light/moderate exercise, I will remove the Belly Bandit and wear a compression tank. This will give me a bit more flexibility in my core and allow my muscles to regain strength while still being supported. I have seen a few different styles that I like and am even considering one that I recently saw at Wal-Mart.

MomBodFitness FITsplint
I wrote a review of this product a while back but it can be used during pregnancy, as well as after. I will use this most during exercise in those first post-partum weeks.

EXERCISE

As soon as I am given the green light to move past light/moderate exercise and onto true core strengthening, here are some of the exercises I plan to squeeze in my day…you know, with all that free time that I will have having just had a baby and all. (I get points for being ambitious, yes?)

Plank-A-Day/Plank-An-Hour
I have a true love/hate relationship with core exercises but I know I need to do them. The #PlankADay plan (and then progressing on to the #PlanAnHour) is manageable and planks can be done anywhere. I really have no excuse not to do this.

Back and Side Hyperextensions
There is nothing in the world that removes the dreaded muffin-top faster than hyperextensions. A while back I worked with a running coach and he had me do these to strengthen my lower abs and back and I was AMAZED at how much stronger my body looked and felt. I will absolutely be incorporating this into my post-partum core recovery plan.

P90X Ab Ripper
Luckily, we already own the P90X system, so this will be a matter of popping in the DVD and committing the 15 minutes to the program. Personally, I think Tony Horton is incredibly corny but there is no doubt in my mind that his programs, when followed properly, WORK. Having done the P90X program before, I know that it is hard and intense and I fully expect to not be able to do half of the exercises on my first several attempts. But, I plan to keep working at it.

Yoga
Since I am a total amateur yogi, I plan on hitting up the free classes on Saturday mornings offered by my local lululemon athletica showroom. I figure that some yoga is better than no yoga and since they rotate teachers from different studios, maybe I will find one that I like.

So, there is the plan. It seems extensive, but I really think I can manage it. I know I have lofty goals and that all of these good intentions may go right out the window when I realize that breastfeeding, washing onesies, and getting some shut-eye are more important, but at least I have a plan.

What did YOU (or your spouse, partner, etc.) do post-partum to help strengthen your/her core again? If you are currently expecting, what is YOUR plan?