Developed in the 1960s by Eastern Bloc sports coaches, plyometrics consists primarily of jumping exercises designed to enhance the power of the legs. Studies have shown that adding a small amount of plyometrics to the training regimen of endurance athletes improves performance. A 2003 study by Australian researchers found that the addition of plyometrics to the training of high-level runners for six weeks resulted in an average 2.7-percent improvement in 3K race times.
An example of a good plyometrics exercise for runners is the single-leg box jump. Stand on your left foot facing a sturdy platform 12 to 18 inches high (such as stacked aerobics steps). Bend your left leg, swing your arms back then forward to generate momentum, and jump up onto the platform landing on your left foot. Do not allow your right foot to touch the platform. Immediately jump back down, also landing on your left foot. Continue jumping for 30 seconds with the left leg, then switch to the right.
Few runners care to make time to add plyometrics workouts to their training regimen. But you don’t have to. As an alternative, incorporate some single-leg running into one or two of the runs you’re already doing every week. Start by running on just your right leg for 10 strides and then on just your left leg for 10 strides. Gradually increase the number of strides you do on each leg until you reach 30 strides per leg. You will notice that it gets easier to go longer on one leg, which is a sign that your legs are adapting to the stress and your stride is becoming more efficient.