For faster times with fewer miles, try incorporating plyometrics into your training.
If you’re one of those athletes who doesn’t react well to high running mileage, researchers in Japan have a possible solution. In their study, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, they explored the effects of plyometric training on running performance. First, participants ran a 5K time trial to get a baseline time. They then split them into two groups, giving each a different training plan.
One group did run training only, two to three times each week. The other group ran, but also did body weight plyometrics. After eight weeks, both groups significantly improved their 5K times. The kicker: The plyometric group ran 25 percent less mileage than the run-only group to get the same results—while also improving their reactive leg strength and jumping power.
These results are likely related to the muscle recruitment patterns activated via plyometric training. Since you utilize mostly slow-twitch fibers in distance running, plyometrics teach your body to also rely upon fast-twitch fibers. When you maximize muscle recruitment, you’re able to turn your legs over faster and push off harder. This means increased economy and faster times.
If your body can’t handle all the pounding (or you just don’t love running), working in plyos twice a week could conceivably cut your mileage by a quarter. After warming up, give these exercises a shot and you may just find that when you drop mileage, you also drop time.