Most running training plans include cross-training sessions to increase aerobic fitness and strengthen muscles. Cross-training helps athletes run faster by increasing fitness, power and efficiency, and it's also credited with reducing injuries and accelerating injury rehabilitation.
But if you want to really get your blood pumping and your muscles firing, try skipping.
According to the International Sports Conditioning Association, skipping can improve your speed, agility, power, endurance, balance and coordination, all of which are must-haves for running. Skipping works your calves, glutes and quads as well as your shoulders, chest, back and triceps from turning the rope.
Personal trainer and presenter Lauren Vickers calls running her meditation in motion.
"I try to incorporate running into most of my workouts," she says.
"My knees have endured many years of high heels, so I can't run as far as I used to, but I love incorporating some short cardio burners in my outdoor training one to two times a week, with sprints and shuttle runs in between sets."
Vickers is a big fan of skipping as a cross-training exercise for runners and anyone wanting a physical challenge.
"Skipping seems like a simple exercise, but it can quickly become extremely challenging," says Vickers.
"While skipping is gentle on the body, it's high in intensity. You can really tire yourself out skipping, and consistent skipping will help to improve your strength, endurance and coordination."
Never skip it
In fact, an Arizona University study found that a 10-minute daily program of skipping is as good as a 30-minute daily program of jogging for improvement of cardiovascular efficiency.
Other research has shown that skipping can not only reduce tension but also raise energy levels. Subjects taking part in a study at Illinois University were monitored while skipping during a 60-minute workout, five-days a week, over ten-weeks. The results included greater leg and knee strength, an increase in calf size, better jumping ability, and faster running speed. Subjects also became more agile and flexible, and their hearts became stronger.
Vickers loves skipping as a form of cross-training because it can be done anywhere. Vickers loves skipping as a form of cross-training because it can be done anywhere. Her own personal preference of rope is Unit Nine's sweat plus pack.
"[It] includes a skipping rope, resistance bands, trigger ball and towel – making it the perfect on-the-go training kit to help me perform a skipping workout at home, the gym, work or at a hotel."
Vickers says skipping helps runners get used to planting their feet directly underneath their body, and helps to reduce the length of time their feet touch the ground with each step.
"Skipping is a low-impact, effective way to build your running endurance and strengthen the muscles that you use while running without your joints bearing too much load. It also helps to build calf, ankle and foot strength," adds Vickers.
Do it right
Like any other exercise, runners should warm-up for a skipping workout by getting the glutes and abdominal muscles firing. Give these three exercises a go:
Slide a short resistance band around your ankles and perform 20 crab walks forward and 20 backwards.
Place the resistance band above your knees, lie on your back with knees bent and perform 10 glute bridges.
Using a long resistance band, hold the band at tension with your arms shoulder width apart straight out in front of you. Brace your core and keeping the tension, move the band in halo motions clockwise first, then anti-clockwise for 10 repetitions in each direction.
Once warm, hop to these short skipping workouts:
Warm up for two minutes at an easy skipping pace, and then progress to five sets of interval skipping:
- One minute easy pace
- 30 seconds sprint pace
- One minute side to side skipping
- 30 seconds high knees skipping
Warm up for two minutes at an easy skipping pace, and then progress to eight rounds of tabata skipping:
- 20 seconds sprint pace
- 10 seconds rest
- Rest for one minute and repeat the sequence one more time.
The goal of one day completing an ultra-marathon inspires running fanatic Laura Hill to clock up the kilometres each week. With a day job in the corporate world, Laura loves nothing more than lacing up her runners and hitting the pavement to clear her mind and challenge her body.
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