Special Running Edition!
I've been running for over 30 years. Whether I'm running for fun or training for a 5K, 10k, trail run, half or full marathon, running has been my drug of choice. I'm also guilty of passing on the running addiction to others.
Why do we run?
Why do we elect a sport that can make your lungs burn and
muscles ache, cause countless blisters, raw skin from chaffing,
and black toe nails? Just ask any of the 18 million Americans
who registered for road races in 2018. Although there may be
as many answers as runners....
Here are our 10 favorite reasons to acquire a taste for running (if you haven't gotten the bug already).
Running is the most accessible sport in the world. Anyone can learn to run. Yes, anyone. With practice and a plan, any age, stage, or fitness level can run.
Running is budget-friendly. The only purchase you need to make is a good pair of running shoes.
Running is meditative. After a while running isn’t so labor intensive and you are able to go out at a comfortable, conversational pace without gasping for air. When this happens, you get into a groove, you start focusing on your breath and your foot strike, and it becomes a moving meditation.
Running allows time for ourselves, free of chatter or having to serve someone else. It is where we recharge our souls.
Running gets us into the great outdoors. You don’t need to drive anywhere if you don’t want to and it’s outside where we belong (we spend our lives indoors and that sucks the spirit out of us). We weren’t designed to be enclosed.
Running teaches us to keep moving forward, especially in the most painful moments. Life can be difficult and uncomfortable, running helps us realize that it’s just discomfort, it won’t kill you and eventually it will be over. You learn how to hang on.
Running teaches us an appreciation for delayed gratification. Everything about our sport takes time. You don’t get faster overnight, it takes commitment and sacrifice. You learn that the little things you do every day add up to big successes. You begin to use that lesson in other areas of your life. You apply it to self improvement, your parenting, your relationships, your job.
Running teaches resilience. Bodies are unpredictable. Running conditions are unpredictable. So runners sometimes experience failure. Sometimes we don’t meet our goals, have a bad run, or get injured. We’re used to obstacles so we learn to pick ourselves up and keep trying.
Running is healing. If you are in any kind of emotional pain, running helps. When you’re out on a run all by yourself, you are free to cry and no one will see (many times running brings this on naturally). If you are carrying a lot of anger, running is a place for you to get really mad free of judgement. If you’re a recovering food, drug, alcohol or shopping addict, it will help you get through those tough moments. Running heals.
Running is good for your self esteem. Running is not about being the fastest or the greatest. Whether you run a mile in 5 minutes or 15, getting across the finish line and completing your run is a huge achievement and it feels good! Races are not necessary, but can be a lot of fun. They bring camaraderie, and great memory makers.
Do runners need to strength train?
The principle of specificity states that sports training should be relevant and appropriate to the sport for which the individual is training in order to produce the desired effect. In other words, in order to get better at your sport, you must perform the skills involved in that sport. It is the 'practice makes perfect' concept.
Based on that principle, if you want to get better at running,
what do you have to do?
Right. You have to RUN.
So does that mean that runners only need to run?
It does not.
Strength training is an essential supplement to a runner’s roadwork because it strengthens muscles and joints, which can improve race times and decrease injury risk.
If you want to perform at your full potential, you need to take a comprehensive approach to running. That means targeting areas of fitness you may not normally pay attention to, like flexibility, balance, mobility, and strength.
Strength work accomplishes three big goals for runners: It prevents injuries by strengthening muscles and connective tissues; it helps you run faster by improving neuromuscular coordination and power; it improves running economy by encouraging coordination and stride efficiency.
Scientific research backs this up: incorporating weights into your regular exercise routine has been proven to increase your speed and VO2 max. The reason? Your muscles don't need to expend as much energy to hit a certain pace. Your brain alters its neural recruitment pattern, calling up the most fatigue-resistant muscle fibers so you exert less energy.
So how to do you fit strength training
into your workout routine?
If you're unsure about how to strength train on your own. take a group class like HIIT, Pilates, TRX, or other total body strength classes.
If you'd rather be outside, take your weights with you, do bodyweight exercises like pushups, lunges, and planks and use equipment like benches for tricep dips and bars on a playground for inverted rows.
You can also integrate cross-training, like cycling or swimming, into your workout routine to build strength and flexibility in muscles that running doesn't utilize and to help prevent injury.
Focusing on different body parts on different days is another effective way to organize your strength training each week. That way, you can strategically schedule "lower-body" or "leg day" a few days after a long run to give your body proper time to fully recover.
Strong leg muscles mean faster running for longer. Try plyometric lunges, calf raises, and farmer carries a few times a week.
Running requires a solid foundation. When you run, your abdominal and back muscles fire to stabilize your spine. Strengthening your core, all of the muscles that surround and support your spine, will help your legs get stronger as well. Just 15 minutes a few times a week is all it takes to reap the benefits. Try supermans, glute bridges, and 3-way planks: front, side, reverse.
Arm drive is a big part of running—when your legs get tired, you use your arms more because of the kinetic chain. Try pushups, inverted rows, dips, pull-ups and reverse flys a few times a week target important upper body muscles like your back, shoulders, and chest.