The first time I began running, I followed a C25K plan and ran a few 5K races. However, I wasn’t regularly running with anyone, and my interest tapered off and finally came to a halt. When I decided to lace up my shoes again (and ultimately for good), I joined a running group, trained for a race, and then stuck around to run with an amazing group of folks who would ultimately become some of my best friends. It was clear to me then that I needed some sort of outside motivation to kickstart my activity. I can maintain my training schedule independently now without too much trouble, but I of course still love running with others. I’ve said the same thing about strength-training over the past few years as well.
I knew, almost as soon as I started running regularly, and certainly once I started reading more, that a commitment to strength-training would benefit my running performance. Over the past two years, I’ve “told” myself I would regularly commit to certain activities, such as push-ups, planks, and other running-focused activities. However, the result has always been a start-and-stop pattern. I get going for a week or two, and then I start to fall off the wagon and re-focus my time and energy on logging the miles. I kick myself, and the ideas fade to the back of my mind.
After this past year, it has become clear to me that although I still have a lot I’d like to accomplish, my training has plateaued a bit and I needed something new as I prepare for the 2014 race season. I decided that this was the year I fully committed to strength-training. I purchased a semester-long faculty pass to the recreation facilities on campus, hoping that the fact that I spent money would serve as a motivator. In reality, the breaking point came about two weeks ago. I was planning to head out for a late afternoon run, and the mercury happened to be hovering around zero, with 30-40 mph winds. Then it started snowing. I was so sick of the wind (and to a lesser degree, the cold) at this point, that I was done. I decided to head to the main rec center on campus and purchase a pass so I could run on the indoor track. I still had no intention of hitting the treadmill, but I could deal with 5.5 laps/mile on the track if it meant coming in from the cold every once in a while.
This decision prompted me to conduct some research and piece together a simple strength-training plan that I knew I could follow and repeat regularly, as well as adjust to add or subtract activities in the hopes of avoiding redundancy and boredom. I found numerous resources, and coupled those suggestions with the fact that I had just purchased access to a great deal of high-end exercise equipment, which it seemed silly not to take advantage of since I could. I settled on the following routine, which takes about 30 minutes to complete. The links above also have videos for many of these exercises if you are interested.
- push-ups (25 front, 25 right-front, 25 left-front, additional to exhaustion)
- plank (at least 60 seconds front, 30 seconds left, 30 seconds right, increase time with strength)
- Lower body Russian twist (10-20 reps)
- Scorpion (leg twist in push-up stance, foot on bench)
- Back extensions- exercise ball (10-20 reps)
- Overhead lunge w/ dumb bells above head (10 reps each leg)
- Stability ball jack-knife (20 reps)
- Stability ball hip extension
- body weight squats w/ dumb bells (20 reps)
- leg press (at least 25 reps)
- leg curls (at least 25 reps)
I’ve now stuck with this routine for the past two weeks, and have been really happy with the variety and ability to target key muscle groups necessary for running. I’ve been able to mix things up with other activities, as well as repeat activities for an added challenge. I like completing the routine after my normal running workout for the day, and am continuing to shoot for 2-3 strength-training sessions per week in order to maintain a routine.
Running on the track has been equally kind to me over the past two weeks. I’ve enjoyed being able to run in shorts in the winter, and the softer running surface gives me knees a break as well. The only drawback is only being able to run in one direction on the upper track. I’ve definitely noticed a difference in how my knees feel after 5-10 miles making the same left turn four times each loop. However, I also have access to the larger, lower track used for indoor meets, and this allows me to mix up my direction and incorporate tempo runs fairly easily as well.
Ultimately, I’m quite pleased with my decision, and excited by what I hope will be fruitful returns on my investment as my race schedule kicks into gear. Do you incorporate strength-training into your routine? Do you have any exercises you are especially fond of? I’d love to hear your thoughts!