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Increase Ankle Strength for Long Distance Runners: Intermediate Plyometric Workout with No Equipment

The irony is...I have Achilles tendonitis while writing this blog.


Here's how I'm going to fix myself with these exercises and build up my ankles again to avoid this injury in the future.


News Flash: Sometimes injuries just happen, especially ankle and foot overuse injuries.


Example: my current predicament was brought on by gardening and repeatedly walking along this 45 degree water run-off embankment.


While wearing my favorite recovery sandals.

After long runs.


Oops.


THE POINT: sometimes it's not the high impact load of running that results in injuries.

It's more often the combination of the load of running + life.


(and maybe wearing the wrong footwear because I was too lazy and stubborn to put on real shoes. Physical Therapists are human, too.)


How this blog's exercises factor in and what it means for YOU:


Once my Achilles tendon calms down enough that I'm not initially limping after sitting for a hot minute, it'll be time to start working into more plyometric exercises to help load and truly STRENGTHEN that tendon.


Step 1: do my Stronger Feet exercises to keep plantar fasciitis away and strengthen the foundation in which my Achilles Tendon plugs into (....and some calf raise variations)


Step 2: do more chill, double leg, plyometric exercises like these ones in a previous blog post HERE


Step 3: work into this week's more advanced plyometrics.

..because, man, I'm going to need these to help build up the overall load tolerance my Achilles tendon. Because remember, it was the dumb, intense angle of the ground that got me (and we don't normally run tilted or so severely sideways).


LESSON FOR YOU:

Just because you don't normally run severely tilted or hop side to side from one foot to another for miles on end, doesn't mean you shouldn't strengthen your ankles in all directions.


I am currently living proof that you should.


You make yourself more injury proof by training in all planes of motions, meaning from all directions.


This is partly the reason why calf raises alone ARE BORING and I hardly ever recommend them as a solo exercise.

On their own, yes, they help you build gastroc and soleus muscle strength specific to running, often in positions that look like running.


HOWEVER, by focusing solely on calf raises which prepare you for sagittal plane movement, meaning running forward, they don't do much in the way of preparing you for accidental and potentially injury-causing surprise sideways movement.

*Cue for THIS WEEK'S Ankle and Plyometric exercises * ;)


Let's hop in.


(pun not intended....)

Plyometric Ankle Exercises for Long Distance Runners

Circuit:

2-3 sets each // No Equipment Needed


Single Leg Pogo Jump

  • x8 Reps ea leg

Single Leg LATERAL Pogo Jump

  • x8 Reps ea leg

Alternate Scissor Leg Pogos

  • x16 Reps total

Forward Travel Alternate Scissor Leg Pogos

  • x16 Reps total


How to Build Ankle Strength for Intermediate Long Distance Runners


Single Leg Pogo Jump

  • Let this be easy.

  • TOP TIP: make sure you've mastered the regular double leg pogo jump FIRST before trying this one. Keep in mind the same cues of minimal contact time on the ground, toes up, slight bend in your knees, etc. But now, do all this on one leg rather than two.

  • If you need to: start out with the double leg version and hop your way into the single leg version (that's what I do.) Keep in mind, if you feel you're losing the correct form sooner than 8 reps, it's ok not to do all 8 reps. Keep going until fatigue sets in and you start to lose correct form; rest; repeat.


Single Leg LATERAL Pogo Jump

  • Same song; different dance.

  • WHY THIS ONE MATTERS: for other chronic ankle sprainers like myself out there, you might want to try this WITHOUT shoes on and cut the reps in half!

  • This is one pogo jump you don't want to skip if you feel the sides of your ankles are weak or that you're constantly spraining your ankles on trails or curbs. Building up reactive muscle strength of lateral ankle stabilizers, tendon load tolerance, and single leg balance in different directions is your friend!

  • But be mindful: if you've had side-of-ankle injuries before, these might be spicy at first depending on how weak the muscles are. Take your time working into these starting with the single leg pogo jump above and gentle adding in small sideways hops. That's it.


Alternate Scissor Leg Pogos

  • Have fun :)

  • THE SECRET: let it be springy! Trying to keep your toes up while scissor jumping can feel...abnormal. (I personally kept wanting to point my toe down.) Sometimes working into larger and longer scissor jumps, meaning more distance between your legs, can help promote that "spring" and helping you keep your toes pointed up.

  • Again, take your time! if you're doing these for the first time ever, they might feel funky and like you're doing everything wrong... Don't be afraid to back things up, start by double leg pogo jumping, then jumping forward and backward with that both legs, and gradually work into separating and scissoring the legs.


Forward Travel Alternate Scissor Leg Pogos

  • Be Bouncy :)

  • WHERE TO START: back it up if you need to. You can always resort to double leg pogo jumps, work into forward travel hops, slowly start scissor with a small distance between your feet, and travel forward this way first.

  • A lot of times, our bodies CAN do these exercises! it's our brains that take convincing. That's why with this circuit, I'm focusing more on how to work your way into them successful, because the pogo jump cues are overall the same. But mapping out and giving your brain a pathway of baby steps that gradually work you into the exercise is what physically makes your successful.


WRAPPING UP

Let's make this short and sweet since the beginning of this blog was a little heftier...


3 Things to Remember While Practicing this Circuit:

  1. Take your time!

  2. Let these feel awkward.

  3. And keep practicing.


If you're wondering WHEN to fit these into your busy life:

Using these exercises as a warm up especially before a long run, trail run, or any run where you'll be potentially navigating a change in terrain is a solid move.


This circuit gives your body a preview of what's to come, arms your nervous system with HOW to respond to potential terrain changes, and increases your heart rate, priming your cardiovascular system.


Boom.

All purposes of a warm up: CHECK.

If you're looking for more ways to strength train as a runner, but make it more full body, I've got you covered.


And until next time, running fit fam...


Dare to Train Differently,

Marie Whitt, PT, DPT //@dr.whitt.fit

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