Community Contributor: Zo McCullough, CSCS, CPT General Manager at D1’s K2 Performance Center
It’s a beautiful morning on race day, you’ve trained for this and it’s time to begin. The starting gun goes off, your running through the course at your best time yet. You feel great until, near the end of your run, you feel a wave of fatigue and mental exhaustion hit you like a headwind. You slow down, feel irritated and your body begins to run out of energy as you realize that you have hit the dreaded ‘wall’.
Whether you call it ‘bonking out’ or ‘hitting the wall’, long distance runners cringe a little when hearing those words since most have experienced this phenomenon either during training or on race day.
But how can we avoid smacking into this non-tangible wall face first? Many runners would think that increasing their carb intake would have the most substantial effect, but it may not if that energy is being wasted on poor running mechanics.
What if, along with proper carb loading strategies, we can train your body to be more efficient with each stride that you make? That way, you can utilize your energy stores to help you push through the last few miles!
Let’s break this down, to have you training effectively for your next race, by looking at the following:
1) What is this ‘wall’?
2) Why plyometric exercises can help?
3) What plyometric exercises should I use?
So, let’s get into it:
What is this ‘wall’?
This ‘wall’ refers to the point where your glycogen (converted carbohydrate stores) are fully depleted. When that fuel source is tapped out, your body goes into a ‘preservation mode’ with our muscles and even our brain. That is why, when you hit this stage, negative thoughts may sprint into your head like, “I shouldn’t be doing this!” and “Everyone is doing better than I am. I should just quit now and find the nearest tub of ice cream!”.
From what we described, it sounds like everything can be fixed by just adding on more carbohydrates and electrolyte supplements, right? This leads to our next question…
Why plyometric exercises can help?
Plyometrics, or ‘Jump Training’ refers to training your muscles to produce both strength and speed effectively. Essentially, plyometric training helps you to generate force in a strong and efficient manner. The better that you can produce force in a quick and controlled manner, the better you can control your body movements and the more efficiently you will run!
By doing this, you may improve your running efficiency (economy) (RE) and improving your RE will help you use less energy to run the same distances that you have in the past, keeping energy for what’s important, running the best race that you can!
Take a second to take in that info. Once you see the positive changes that this can provide, we need to now consider our final question…
What plyometric exercises should I use?
If you’re a runner, or want to become a runner, you should use what time and energy, outside of training, on the exercises that matter most. For your plyometric training, we need to focus on two things:
1) Force Absorption
For that, let’s work on this:
* Begin by using a box or step that is knee height or shorter.
Stand on top of the box at the edge and drop down landing softly on two feet. Once you land, immediately jump up and extend vertically. Land softly again in a squat to complete one rep. • Coaching Point! Make sure to land with your toes touching the ground first and then sink into your heels before your next jump. Your goal is to land as quietly as possible! That way you teach your body to absorb force.
2) Force Production
For this, were going to use:
Lateral Line Hops:
* Stand with both feet together with the outside of your foot on one side of a line marked on the floor.
Begin by pushing through your toes to jump both feet to the opposite side of the line. Once you land, immediately jump again to return to the starting point on the original side of the line. • Coaching Point! Keep your knees and hips soft while you primarily make the jump through your ankles like you are jumping rope. The jumps should be quick and you should spend as little time on the floor as possible. That way we work on producing the best jump through the floor as possible.
Give these moves a shot to help you perfect your form for race day!
More information can be found by contacting our social media channels below:
D1’s K2 Performance Center: @k2performancecenter
Coach Zo McCullough: @zo_mccullo