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Pogo Jumps: the Key Exercise for Injury-Free Ankles and Achilles Tendons for Beginner Runners

I avoided these for the looooongest time.

And I paid the price.

I don't want you to make the same mistake.


I stared at these exercises planned into my strength training program and casually ignored them for a month.

But my knee pain didn't get better.

And my right achilles continued to be it's cranky self.


Finally sick of my own stubbornness and constant body aches during my run, I gave in.

And did the damn exercises.


Plyometrics.

They sound scary.

They look terrifying when you see the "highlight" reel the internet puts together.

And it's easy to make the excuse, "those aren't for me. They take too much time. I don't have fancy boxes, etc."


GARBAGE EXCUSES.

ALL garbage.


If you're a newer runner of ~2 years...or maybe a seasoned road vet...

a LOT of your injuries can be kept at bay with these.

Not to mention, your running performance can improve.

(anyone up for better running economy?)


The point is: Plyometrics don't have to be fancy, take a long time, or even be perfect.

But the BENEFITS are pretty stellar.

Bye-bye runner's knee, achilles issues, plantar fasciiits and hello better, pain-free running!


Let me show you how to make it through the most difficult part: just getting started...

without feeling dumb or awkward.


I have 3 easy exercises you can do at home, under 5mins, that you can even use as a pre-run warm up.

Fast.

Simple.

Effective.

No equipment needed.


Let's go.


KEY STRENGTH EXERCISES for BEGINNER RUNNERS: PLYOMETRICS

Circuit:

2-3 sets each


Double Leg Pogo Jump

  • too fatigue with good form* x 2 attempts

Double Leg Pogo Jump Forward Travel

  • too fatigue with good form* x 2 attempts

Double Leg Pogo Jump Sideways Travel

  • too fatigue with good form* x 2 attempts


*we're going to talk about this below...hang with me.


HOW BEGINNER RUNNERS CAN STAY INJURY-FREE

Double Leg Pogo Jumps

  • Let these feel goofy at first!

  • MY SECRET: I had the HARDEST time first learning these. It wasn't until I let my body just move, jump up and down without judgement, and sloooowly work in one cue at a time, that things finally clicked:

    • think "springy/sprint up" through the balls/flats of feet

    • knees can have a gentle bend in them

    • ankles stay relatively stiff

    • MINIMAL contact time with the ground

  • MAJOR TIP: don't judge how "good" you are at these right away. I was surprisingly discouraged at how confused I felt while exploring and learning this movement.

  • Think of this exercise as a foundation- just the place we start. Don't be afraid to play, move around to the other exercises in this circuit, and then come back to this one another day. A lot of plyometrics is yes, force production, load acceptance, building tendon stiffness, blah blah fancy science words that make even my head spin...But it's also a lot of mind-body connection, neuromotor control. This stuff takes time. And reps. Give yourself that.

Double Leg Pogo Jumps FORWARD TRAVEL

  • If you struggle with ankle pain, specifically anything on the sides of your ankles...listen up.

  • THE KEY: running stays in the sagittal plane of motion, meaning we move forward (not even backwards). This side ways movement like in this jump, doesn't really happen in running. But that doesn't mean we don't need it.

  • MAJOR TIP: Training our bodies in all movements/planes of motion is the ULTIMATE KEY to being injury-proof. Just because you're strong in one direction, doesn't mean that strength will carry over into another. And if you're struggle with repeat ankle issues, you'd be surprised just how many moving parts there are in your foot and ankle combined. You need to train ankle strength, stability, and tendon stiffness in ALL these different directions if you want TRUE ankle/calf strength that will save you from injuries down the road.

  • Daring to Train Differently pays off.

Double Leg Pogo Jumps SIDEWAYS TRAVEL

  • Let yourself play.

  • THE KEY: this felt awkward and cumbersome for me at first, not going to lie. But again, I had to put my brain on hold and just move. After a couple attempts, I realized my body figured out how to be springy and jump UP while jumping forward. And it was...fun! And it became a game of how high can I jump doing this exercise?

  • MAJOR TIP: yes, I realize we don't run on two feet or bunny hop to the finish line. BUT....we have to start working on forward travel somewhere and it's easier to do on 2 feet. Because how we DO get to the finish line, is essentially a version of this single leg pogo jump. We spring forward, off the ground, and land with an impact on a single leg, increased by gravity and affected by fatigue, hoping we can sustain this for miles on end without injury.

  • The Point: TRAIN YOUR BODY FOR THIS.


WRAPPING UP

Don't worry, I didn't forget about the *reps note above.


Let's talk reps and sets.


If you're brand-brand new to plyos...

Or maybe you've been around this blog-block a couple times, so you know you should be doing these....buuuutt you just haven't actually done it and committed to these yet..


THIS IS FOR YOU.

I don't want you to worry about the numbers right now.

I'll have a blog post in the future about reps/sets/plyo volume etc, so I'll give you your over-achieving numbers later.

But I first need you to learn the movement.


It would be like teaching you the alphabet and then handing you all three volumes of Lord of the Rings and telling you go read it.

Not going to be very successful.


Your CURRENT REPS AND SETS ARE:

  • start each plyo by jumping around, just moving

  • work your way into the specific plyo and notice when you nail the exercise

  • Then notice when the quality of the plyo starts to go down for 2-3 reps.

  • You're done with that attempt. You've fatigued. Rest. Try again. Move onto the next one.

This is about learning combined with QUALITY reps.

Give your body and nervous system a chance to catch up and prove...you do got this.

It's not as scary as you thought.

It might feel a little weird, but you're getting the hang of it.


These exercises, combined with lifting heavy consistently and doing strength exercises designed for runners is the full package.


THIS is what helps you stay injury-free.

And it's ok to start with one small step at a time.


If you're looking for ways to start lifting like a runner with the correct exercises, I've got you covered :)


Take a look at any of my 3 FREE Strength Resources for runners here on my website.

Pick one, work through it.


Ask me questions if you have any.


And as always running fit fam,


Dare to Train Differently,

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


 

Reference:

Llanos-Lagos, C., Ramirez-Campillo, R., Moran, J. et al. Effect of Strength Training Programs in Middle- and Long-Distance Runners’ Economy at Different Running Speeds: A Systematic Review with Meta-analysis. Sports Med (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-023-01978-y

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