The more power one has to sprint, the faster he or she can run a marathon. Distance runners are learning that they must also hone their speed, as working on your base speed translates up. In addition to doing shorter intervals, another way to increase your power, and thus speed, is with plyometric exercises.
Bounding in particular is “the most specific kind of ‘weight training’ that a runner can do,” explains professional runner Renee Metivier Baillie and trainer at Recharge. “Done properly, it develops their power output in a running-specific way, allowing runners to increase their efficiency and top-end speed.”
Despite having moved up in race distances over the years, Metivier Baillie never dropped the bounding exercises she started doing under Mark Wetmore at the University of Colorado. Her 2:27:17 debut marathon in 2012 was the third fastest debut by an American woman.
These high-intensity, more explosive exercises fall right 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.
What 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.
Metivier Baillie does bounding drills year-round.
“I never like to let my speed get too far away from me. However, I do them move often when I’m gearing up for shorter races, such as track, since I workout more frequently and at a higher intensity,” Metivier Baillie said.
While previously she used to do these drills after her hard workouts, Metivier Baillie has now switched. “By incorporating these short bursts of ‘max power output’ on the easy day before a hard workout, I prep my body for the demand that is coming the following day,” she said.
Metivier Baillie cautious here just how important it is to take a full recovery between each repetition and set: “The goal is simply to engage and invigorate the neuromuscular system; save the hard effort for the next day!”
Renee Metivier Baillie’s Bounding Routine
Take advantage of these three different types of bounding drills and for each bounding session that you do, select two of the drills. Start with two sets and gradually work up to doing four to five sets per drill, taking ample walking rests between each. You shouldn’t leave each session wiped, and you may not even feel sore right away. It’s interesting how these kinds of plyometrics have a delayed-onset in muscle soreness; it’s important you avoid overdoing it in the session and then be left paying a steep price later.
Flat: Get a running start and then bound (from one leg to the next, like the step phase of a triple jump) for about 50 meters. The main goal is to cover as much distance as possible from one step to the next. I really focus on getting full extension of the push-off leg and ankle as well as driving the other knee powerfully forward.
Uphill: Bound from leg to leg on a very steep hill (or the steps of a stadium) for about 30 to 40 meters. The goal is to maximize the height of each stride. Again, I focus on getting full extension of the push-off leg and ankle as well as driving the other knee up and forward.
Hurdles: I line up six to eight hurdles, and then hop over each one in sequence. This is a double-leg maneuver, unlike the previous two kinds of bounding. I focus on landing as softly as possible between hurdles and minimizing my ground-contact time. Try not to take a ‘stutter hop’ between hurdles. Be sure to start with hurdles that aren’t too tall; mine are a little more than knee-height. The timing can be a bit tricky on this one, especially for us distance runners, but after some practice it comes very naturally.
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Just as running uphill is another form of speedwork, by taking your bounds to the incline it’s a double-punch. Similarly, adding hurdles to the mix increases the functionality focus and engages more of that neuromuscular side to getting faster. Distance runners are often not the most coordinated of folks, yet improving one’s agility in training methods seen in other sports is important. This will make you more efficient, thus both faster and more injury resistant.
Take your speed to the next level: these workouts offer many benefits for distance runners. Logic and reason can tell you the faster you can run 200 meters, the faster you can run a single mile. Run a faster mile and think how much more comfortable that marathon pace will feel.
Start integrating bounding exercises two to three times per week into your routine, continue the speed work and the results will follow.
About The Author:
Caitlin Chock set the then National High School 5k Record (15:52.88) in 2004. A freelance writer, artist, and designer she writes about all things running and founded Ezzere, her own line of running shirts. You can read more, see her running comics, and her shirts at her website.