What?! Strength training, you say? I don’t have time for strength training; I’m much too busy running.
Strength training is essential for runners of all distances, not only to improve speed and endurance, but to avoid injury. Twenty to thirty minutes, three days a week, is all it takes. You can do it all at home using your own body weight. No need to travel or pay for a gym membership if you don’t want to. Do it in front of your favorite TV series or while you read spelling words to your kids.
Most running injuries are caused by overuse, muscle imbalances, and your form deteriorating during long runs or races. Increasing your strength reduces injury risk from these three sources.
Overuse injuries are cause by running more miles than your body is ready for. They include things such as shin splints, pulled hip flexors, pulled hamstrings, and the feared stress fracture. By increasing your strength your body will be better prepared for an increase in miles.
Muscle imbalances cause injuries in two different ways, by pulling against the weaker muscle, straining and tearing it and by overuse. The stronger muscle then becomes injured because you are relying on it more than you should. Muscles work in concert with one another, extending and contracting.
Deteriorating form during a race happens as your entire body becomes tired because of the speed and/or distance. Your shoulders droop, your arms cross over your middle more, your head sags, you don’t pick up your feet as high. All these small changes add up and cause stress to muscles, which are called on to make up for those that are too tired to do their job any longer. In other words, you compensate for the weakness. The muscles you incorporate are susceptible to injury because you do not normally rely upon them.
Focusing on overall strength one day a week, hips and ankles one day a week, and your core and gluteus one day a week will round out your training. You can find workouts for these on my Strength Training page.
Strength of heart and mind is necessary if you want to be able to stick with running, as your long-term mode of exercise or even just to finish that marathon. You have to be ready for combat. Boredom, lack of motivation, mental and physical fatigue are going to attack you with all their succulent temptations to stay in bed, sit on the couch, it’s too cold, it’s too hot, the latest episode of (insert favorite TV series) is on, the kids need me, or whatever. There are a million reasons not to get out there and run. You have to be prepared for these and have a strategy to overcome them. You need have backup strategies as well because the first line of defense may crumble to its knees at the sight of the enemy.
I run first thing in the morning. This eliminates the taking time from the kids, who are asleep, along with most other excuses not to run. I remind myself how great I feel after my runs. I love to start the day having accomplished something. I love the quiet of the city during the wee hours of the morning and watching the sun come up over the mountains. In the winter, I enjoy the sparkling snow lining the branches of the trees and the unmarred powder covering the ground. I change my route continuously, so I don’t get bored. If you don’t have a Garmin you can use mapmyrun.com to figure out the distance of a route. I make sure and dress for the weather (we’ll talk about this in a future post). With all the TV recording, Netflix, redbox, amazon, apple TV, options missing your show should not stand in the way.
There are an infinite number of ways to entertain yourself while running. If you are going to use any devise with ear buds, I recommend keeping the volume low enough to hear cars or leaving one ear bud out. Audio books, music, and running partners are all excellent choices. There are itunes apps, which tell you stories as you run, check out Runtastic. The mapmyrun app will tell you distance, time, and split pace in real time. Pearspots.com offers coaching in real time, encouraging you, and inspiring you to keep going. Charityrun, itunes app, will donate money to a specific charity for every mile you run. These are just a few ways to fend off boredom.
The finish line of your goal race is also great motivation. Visualize crossing that finish line with your goal time being called out to you as you beep across or flashing in red numbers next to the finish arch. Feel the weight of the metal being hung around your neck. Hear the cheers and cowbells from race fans and volunteers. Relish in the hugs, kisses, and butt slapping from family and friends. Staying motivated and inspired to run is not an unconquerable foe, but it’s something you have to prepare for and fight against.
As a parent, you watch your children struggle through things as they learn and grow. It’s the most challenging aspect of parenting, at least for me. I don’t want them to be emotionally or physically hurt, but it comes with life. Being able to show them that I have struggled and overcome physical, emotional and mental challenges is just one of the ways my running benefits my children. My training demonstrates to my children the importance of setting goals and working toward them even when it gets tough.
Whatever it takes, just get out there and run!