Did you know? Over 30 million people run for exercise in the USA! As much as we would like to say the reason for that is because running is awesome, the reality is that there are few other exercises that are as accessible and beneficial as running. Running is a skill that few are taught; as a result, runners often pay the price with as many as 80% becoming injured and thus losing precious training days over the course of a year. While most runners run as their only form of exercise, we all know that running should be a part of an exercise routine and not the entirety of it. Strength training and gait retraining for improving tissue capacity and running efficiency play a large role in performance and injury reduction. But what if we are missing another piece?
Running involves the ability to load and explode. It is often stated that running is characterized by jumping/hopping from one foot to the other. This concept of jumping is a form of plyometrics which involves a loading phase (eccentric) and exploding or unloading phase (concentric). The inability to perform either of these tasks properly can cause energy leakage, abnormal movement patterns, excessive stress, poor performance, and potentially injury. Because so many runners neglect other aspects of training, getting them involved with strengthening, let alone plyometric training, is a tall task. So, it’s worth our time to stress the importance of not only traditional strengthening but also plyometric training as part of our runners' programs.
So, why else does jumping matter?
Well, the benefits of jumping are numerous! First, jumping allows for the strengthening of bones and joints. It allows the body to accommodate the stress it will experience with running (again, running is a continuous transition from one leg to the other.) Bone density and connective tissues, such as tendons and ligaments, reap the benefits of this type of training.
Plyometrics also make you stronger and more forceful. By learning how to efficiently load and unload your tissue, the body with be able to generate more force and power into the ground, thus driving you forward faster. This strength benefit directly translates into performance improvements.
Another component that I often note lacking in many injured runners is coordination. The ability to coordinate movement allows for better loading patterns and more efficient movements. Lack of coordination can lead to injuries such as stress fractures. Jumping rope is a wonderful way to improve coordination. It teaches the runner to be light on their feet, and load the feet appropriately while mimicking the running motion by alternating foot contacts with the ground. The beauty of this type of training is that it can be done anywhere by anyone. Jumping rope or even invisible jump roping can be performed in an office, hotel room, bedroom, or any other space. Location should never be an excuse as to why one can’t do some form of plyometric training.
So, hopefully you can see that runners need to make time not only for their running and traditional strength training, but also for plyometric training. This diversity in training will undoubtedly improve the general health of runners in addition to other aspects of their life. Runners need to carve out time to incorporate this type of training (and in some cases scale back on the running mileage) to ensure that this component is not neglected...because JUMPING DOES MATTER!