Once a week—twice if you have time—perform a short bodyweight or free-weight resistance-training routine. These exercises force your nervous system to recruit all your muscle fibers both simultaneously and explosively, mimicking the demands of the 5K start. This isn’t about building bigger muscles. It’s about teaching your body efficient control of your muscle fibers.
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All Photos: Nick Isabella
Stand straight with feet hip-width apart, toes pointed slightly out, arms at your sides. Bend your knees, keeping your thighs parallel to the floor while bringing your arms up, extended in front of your shoulders. Then push up with your quads to return to your starting position. Start with five reps, build to 10–15.
Hold a 10- to 20-pound dumbbell in both hands. Stand straight with your right knee slightly bent. Lower the dumbbells to the floor, keeping your arms straight, and be sure that your back is locked as your left leg kicks back. Keep your head up and aim to maintain a straight line between your left shoulder and your left leg. When the dumbbells get close to the floor, pull your arms up away from the floor and return to a standing position. Repeat this sequence 10 times, then switch and do the same on your left leg.
Assume a modified pushup position with your elbows bent 90 degrees and both forearms resting on the floor. Position your elbows directly underneath your shoulders and look straight at the floor. Your body should form a perfectly straight line from the crown of your head to your heels. Your feet are together with only the toes touching the floor. Hold this position for as long as you can, concentrating on keeping your abdominal and low back muscles tightened to prevent bending at the hips.
Standing up straight with a 15- to 20-pound dumbbell in each hand, lunge forward with your right foot, keeping your arms (and weights) down by your side. Land on your heel, and make sure your knee is directly above the front of your foot. Repeat five times on each leg. Next, from a standing position, lunge to your right, keeping your left leg straight and torso upright as you step down heel first with your right foot. Do five reps leading with your right leg, then five leading with your left. Finally, step backward with your right leg, keeping your left leg firmly planted in front of you, with your left knee directly over the front of your foot. Do five reps leading backward with your right leg, then five leading with your left.
Side leg lifts
Lie on your side, legs stacked, with your head resting on one arm. Lift your top leg to 45 degrees in a smooth motion, then bring it back down. Do 10–20 reps with each leg.
Balance on one foot, standing on a step or low platform, your free leg bent slightly at the knee. Lower your hips, keeping your weight on your front foot and keeping your knee in line with that same foot. Bend down just far enough to tap the ground behind you. Then straighten your bent leg while bringing your suspended leg forward, lifting the knee in front of you to waist height. Repeat. Do 5–10 reps with each leg.