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Running Strong

It is well known by anyone who has been running for a short or long period of time that there comes a time when your speed seems to plateau. That no matter how many miles you put on your favorite pair of running shoes your speed never increases and the only thing that seems to be increasing is nagging injuries. If there was only a way to increase your speed without increasing your likelihood of injuring yourself. Welp, there is! and it does not include running more sprints (though I do for some sadistic reason enjoy a good set of 8x800). The answer is resistance training!

Yes, hitting the iron helps enormously when it comes to increasing your overall speed and it does not require any more time training. You can also hit the iron during your season with no worry of over training. It is actually is a great way to keep the strength in your legs, core, and chest while you taper your milage. Study after study show that with proper strength training, beginner runners to advanced jackrabbits decrease times and increase mean speeds and decrease need for higher volume of running.

In a 1999 study of 22 elite male cross country runners# researchers split the runners into two separate groups. They were able to show that even though one training group replaced 38% of their postseason actual work-out with explosive training, they had significantly greater improvements in overall running economy and mean speeds.  This is not the only research to show such significant improvements to runners performance with substituting pounding the pavement with pounding the iron. A University of New Hampshire study showed very similar results with similar training techniques#.

The UNH study followed 12 female distance runners split into 2 groups of 6 typical running programs and 6 higher volume/dosing strength training programs. The researchers came up with the same conclusion as many other articles—programs with higher volume of strength training regimens incorporated into their workouts results in athletes with better running economy.

The important underlying theme to these and many other studies is the increase in what is termed running economy. Running economy is defined as the efficiency in which one generates the power to run. Think of it as trying to drive fast on the highway in your car. If you try to drive 90 mph in a car with tires that are flat, emergency brake partially on, clogged air filter, and poor wheel alignment the likelihood that you will able to maintain 90 mph without the car fizzling out after about ten minutes is slim to none. Now imagine you in the same car that just spent 12 weeks getting tuned up. The tires are full of air, brake is off, new air filter, perfect wheel alignment, plus faster electrical system. Going 90 mph on the highway will be a breeze on your trip to Rhode Island’s greatest beaches!

This essentially is what researchers found when they incorporated more resistance training to runners’ programs. The runners who performed resistance training were able to more efficiently generate more power, hold good posture during the run, and have faster and stronger reflex muscle contractions in each stride. This all leads to a more efficient generating of force that is able to be sustained for long periods of running. Training programs all differ from research article to article but they all focus on exercise that are specific to the sport and with loads that are no greater than 40% of the athletes one repetition max 1,2,3. For a good reference for a typical beginner strength training program check out a University of Exeter article on this subject. These programs won’t and should not replace sprints and hill work but should replace some of the high volume of running on the streets. If you have questions or want to develop a personalized strength training program, email me at Happy running!


Getting Beyond Week 5 on The Couch to 5k

The couch to 5K is one of the best beginner runner programs out there. It gently and smartly alternates walking and running  together until you are running for 30 minutes straight. But a lot of clients that have never been runners before come up to me and tell me that at around week five they are hitting a wall. After a lot of tweaking with the program I found an easy solution to help break beyond that 5 week wall. 

What I have my clients do is when they get to week five, or any week that just becomes a problem is to switch out the running portion of the workouts for steep incline walking. This allows an increase in heart rate and force production through hills without having to break stride. The problem most of my clients are facing is that they just don't have the muscular strength combined with the muscular endurance to run yet. This substitution method works very well and has help a lot of people. 



Never Too Old: You Are Not Roger Murtaugh


Many times I run into people who want to start working out and living a healthier more active lifestyle but they tell me "I am to old for this!"

Well I have news for them: you are never to old to start living a more active lifestyle. For example, I have been working with a man who just recently decided to start walking more and playing tennis. He has been playing tennis 3 times a week and walking several miles a week with friends for the past five years and says he has not felt this good in years. This man just celebrated his 92nd Birthday last week! It is never too late. Just train sensibly and eat smart.

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