Kick it up without killing yourself
Adding two training approaches to my running program cut my mile time from 7:30’s to 6:40’s for a 10K and put me ahead of the pack to pull out wins in triathlon. Stair repeats and a bounding sequence. Quick, fun, and challenging, both can dramatically enhance your speed, power, and overall strength and endurance.
Trust me on this one as a triathlon competitor who would hit transition from the water and be virtually the last cyclist out the door. Even as I fast cyclist I relied on my running skills to pull me through to a first-place or at least podium finish.
- Stair workout (a great alternative to hill repeats)
A stair workout is an incredibly effective way to improve fitness and overall health. One study found that simply walking up 200 steps twice a day, five days a week for eight weeks can cause a 17% increase in VO2 max, a common way of measuring aerobic fitness.
Running up stairs brings even more benefits. Because the body is constantly being lifted upward with each step, stair running engages more leg muscles than running on the flats. It improves vertical jump, and vertical jump distance is an indicator or running speed.
According to Adam Bean’s “Runner’s World Best: Run Faster,” the impact of stair running on your joints is even less than hill running. Compared to running on flat land, a Nike study revealed that hill running imposes only 85 percent of the shock, according to Edwards. Both types of workouts will reduce the pounding your joints take on a flat run.
Make your first session about ten minutes and increase by at most 10% weekly. Run repeats of 15-90 seconds (depending on your level) until you reach 25-30 minutes total.
Good knee lift
Powerful arm swing
Focus on the steps
Maintain good form
Keep a constant cadence
You typically have to use a shortened stride so you don’t overstep the stair’s platform. To counter this problem, you have two choices. Either focus on speeding up leg turnover or use bounding strides, such as skipping every other step. By shortening your stride, you can focus on boosting the power of each step.
For agility & lateral, hit 3 steps, then quick right-left foot wide on the next step: repeat up). Recover on the way down or longer, if needed: recover fully for high-quality repeats.
I see people run stair repeats sideways or backwards or with ankle weights. This defeats the purpose of quick feet and power and also causes a safety risk. Keep your workout simple but effective. Mimic straight-line running as much as possible
To get quicker over time increase the intensity by increasing repetitions or changing movements, such as doing two-leg or one-leg hops up the incline.
- Bounding: walk or run with leaping strides.
The more power you have to sprint, the faster you can run any race. Distance runners must also hone their speed as working on base speed translates to long runs. In addition to doing shorter intervals, another way to increase your power and speed is performing plyometric exercises (literally translated, ‘measurable increases’.)
Bounding in particular is “the most specific kind of ‘weight training’ that a runner can do,” according to professional runner Renee Baillie. “Done properly, bounding develops power output in a running-specific way, allowing runners to increase their efficiency and top-end speed.”
These high-intensity, explosive exercises fall in line with a sprinter’s mindset, meaning distance runners need to shift their typical way of thinking. Less is more, longer recovery is critical and quality over quantity isn’t just recommended—it’s of prime importance.
Bounding does is tap into both the physical and neuromuscular patterns necessary to increase turnover. The physical power explains itself, but the neuromuscular aspect should be thought of like laying the groundwork. Before your feet can explode up and off the ground quicker, the nerve passageways have to be built. Bounding literally helps teach your foot how to respond when your brain tells it to go faster.
By incorporating these short bursts of ‘max power output’ on the easy day before a hard workout, you can prep your body for the demand that is coming the following day. You set yourself up for success. Remember to take a recovery between each repetition and set. The goal is simply to engage and invigorate the neuromuscular system, and save the hard effort for the next day.
I use the workout below, provided by Peak Performance. It seems wieldy initially, but once you have it down it is a breath of fresh air to know you are improving without killing yourself.
http://www.menshealth.com/fitness/the-hardest-workout-youre-not-doing (a fun look at stair running)