New CW: Explosive power makes you faster.
You know by now that cross-training helps your running by strengthening the rest of your body while giving your running muscles and joints a break. Next step: Add plyometrics, or jumping drills, to your cross-training. You'll improve your efficiency and power.
Researchers at the University of Jyväskylä, in Finland, found that runners who replaced a third of their weekly running with plyometrics improved their 5-K race times by roughly 3 percent, while a control group saw no improvement. So if you run a 25-minute 5-K, you can shave a minute off your time by running less. Try these plyometric exercises.
Split Squat Leap
Stand with your left foot half a step ahead of your right foot, your hands at your sides. Lower yourself until your back knee is about an inch off the floor, then leap as high off the floor as you can. (Drive your arms up above you to help propel your body upward.) While airborne, reverse the position of your feet so that when you land, your right foot is a half step ahead of your left. Immediately lower yourself into another deep squat. Complete 16 to 24 jumps (eight to 12 in each position).
Single-Leg Box Jump
Balance on your left foot facing a sturdy platform (such as an exercise step) that's 10 to 18 inches high. Leap onto the platform, landing on your left foot, and immediately jump back down to the floor on the same foot. Do 10 to 20 repetitions, then switch to your right foot and repeat.