Run more efficiently with plyometrics

Everyone has 10 daily minutes to spare. Here's how to use yours wisely.

Today's goal: Be a more efficient runner

Ty Cole for

Plyometrics can help put more spring in your stride.

As a runner, your legs need to behave like pogo sticks, not sandbags. "When you run, your legs function as springs," said Matt Fitzgerald, a competitive runner and triathlete and the author of "RUN: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel." "Generally, the stiffer the spring, the more efficient it is." That same principle applies to your legs muscles -- you want them to be able to store a lot of energy and release it quickly. The fastest way to build this big-ups potential is by doing plyometrics.

It only takes 10 minutes and can be done before, during (say, between wind sprints) or after a run, Fitzgerald said. (Just make sure your muscles aren't cold or exhausted -- they are more pliable and ready for action after a warm-up. Ten minutes of easy jogging will do the trick.) "There's solid research showing that when runners add plyometrics, they experience a boost in running economy and fuel efficiency, which translates directly to improved racing performance," Fitzgerald said. Sold! Sign us up.

Here's how: Stand on one foot, bend your standing knee and hips deeply and jump as high as you can. (Don't worry about what your nonstanding leg or your arms are doing.) Do 20 jumps on one leg. Rest for 30 seconds. Repeat on the opposite leg. Aim for three sets in 10 minutes.

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