Team NB’s Sarah Brown had big aspirations following an All-American track career at the University of Tennessee. Then, Achilles injuries wiped out two of her prime years. Multiple surgeries and extensive rehab followed, leaving her a long way from the elite runner she once was—and aspired to be once again.
Brown bounced back though, changing her approach and implementing much more cross-training into her routine. It’s paid off—she came back with a strong showing at the 2012 Trials, competed in the 1,500m at the 2013 World Championships and, most recently, she was part of the world-record-setting distance medley relay team at the 2015 New Balance Indoor Grand Prix.
Recognizing that extensive speed work makes her injury-prone, Brown constantly works to build strength, explosiveness and durability in other ways.
One of her most-used weapons is a jump rope.
What does the jump rope do? Simple—it builds calf strength and increases the elasticity of the Achilles. It also trains the lower legs to decrease ground contact time—a major component of speed.
“Because we avoid a lot of pure sprint-based speed work,” says Darren Brown, Sarah’s husband and coach. “Jumping rope combined with her plyos allow us to build some of the same motor-muscle recruitment and explosive power into her training that she would typically get from fast [50-meter sprints], but without making her get into spikes and risk angering her Achilles. There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”
- 2-footed hops (10) — focus on limiting the amount of time your feet are touching the ground.
- Single-leg, right (10)
- Single-leg, left (10)
- Alternate leg (20)
That’s a total of 50 reps per round. At first, Brown did the circuit three times with a small break between each round. She has since progressed and either does five rounds straight, or sets of three rounds. All told, it takes no more than 10 minutes to do.
Brown does this circuit 3-4 times a week, before strength training sessions and after easy runs.
“For those that get hurt when they try to sprint, it doesn’t mean they weren’t built for speed,” Darren Brown says, “but rather they need to gain speed through different means.”