Category Archives: Strength Training

3 Core Exercises for Runners

Every runner knows that having a strong center can help you run faster.  What isn’t clear is what core exercises are best for building the stability and strength that best supports running at any distance. While your core is made up of many muscles this blog’s focus is on the core’s core.  Made up of your abs, obliques, lower back and transverse abdominis they’re the muscles that keep you aligned and upright.  That’s pretty important stuff for running.

Whether you’re an 800M runner or an ultra marathoner here are are three of Team ECRP‘s favorite core exercises.  Trust us, they’re so much fun you’ll want to add them to your strength training routine as soon as you can.

Planks.  Runners can never plank enough.  Well, a world record isn’t necessary.  With so many varieties available there is a plank for everyone.  One great tool for continuing to challenge your core exercisesbody to get stronger is plank flash cards.  Write a type of plank on one side of a card, repeat for a number of styles then record your history on each one.

Twists.  Rotational stability is key for not wasting energy while we run.  The more power going forward the better off we are.  Strengthening our twisting muscles provides the support we need to run faster and more efficiently.  You can twist in a plank and with a ball, cable or resistance band.  Whichever one you choose is sure to benefit you.

Dead bugs.  More like a dying bug since you’re moving but this simple looking move can really be tough.  This move exclusively hits that all important transverse adominis.  Right in the middle of your body this muscle is the center of your core providing stability for your spine and pelvic floor.  Laying on your back it’s important to keep your lower supported and move your legs independently.

With so many core exercises to choose from it’s hard to go wrong.  Give the choices about a try to develop a well rounded core that will support every mile you run and those last few marathon miles will thank you.

Coach Meredith

Agility Training for Runners

Runner need to do things other than run to become faster, more powerful athletes if there’s a PR sometime in the future.  While strength training is incredibly valuable, agility training is equally as important and unfortunately also overlooked.  Agility training has lots of big benefits from making you a stronger all around athlete to building better body awareness.  Here are several fun ways to enhance your running with simple agility exercises.

Form Drills.  Running form drills are usually included in a good warm up.  That’s because they get your body ready to run and ready to run well.  Drills such as carioca, ‘a-skips’, ‘b-skips’, butt agility trainingkicks and high knees all build strength, coordination and promote high quality running form.  These agility skills can be also be practiced on their own, outside of a warm-up.

Agility Ladder.  Also called a speed ladder this simple tool can have big benefits.  Moving your feet fast through the ladder will carry over to less contact time when you’re running.  Jumping movement will build ankle strength, foot responsiveness and explosive power.  An agility ladder is a good place to improve footwork, learn how to control your body and the amount of energy you’re putting into the ground.

Cones.  Like the agility ladder, there is an endless number of exercises you can perform with a bunch of cones.  These provide a chance for bigger lateral movements than the ladder and can be especially beneficial to trail runners.  Using cones will develop your ability to accelerate, change direction and move your feet quickly.  Try a variety of configurations and run on angles for the biggest benefits.

Include at least some of these agility training exercises in each of your warm-ups and add a few more to your normal non-running routine.  You’ll get stronger and faster with their help.

Coach Meredith

4 Reasons to Trail Run this Spring

There’s nothing quite like going for a trail run in the spring.  Blooming flowers, cool breezes and fresh air make for lovely running weather after long cold winters.  Whether it’s you and nature or a group of your favorite running buddies there’s something special about getting away from the road.  Here are four great reasons to check out your local park this spring.

Scenery – The city and its lights are awesome.  They provide the opportunity to run at all hours in relative safety.  But even those attributes can’t beat getting lost in the woods.trail run  Of course, not actually lost.  There’s no better place than a nice long trail run to spend some time with your thoughts while admiring the foliage and animals waking up for summer.  The change of view will also do your brain good.  Check out this study on just how hitting the trails makes us happier.

Surface – The dirt you’ll face when on a trail run is a welcome break from the hard pavement most of us usually run on.  Even treadmill runners can benefit from the soft surface of dirt.  The decreased rebound you feel on turf means your race tired knees and hips take a little less pounding every step.

Strength – Running on an uncertain, uneven and sometimes covered surface means your ankles and feet have to work extra hard to keep you upright.  Not only do your feet have to quickly react to the challenges of climbing hills, hoping over roots, dodging rocks and splashing through streams, your calves, quads and core are also pushed to respond quickly to the constantly changing path.  A little extra work on the trail means better results on the pavement and a stronger, more durable running body.

Accessories – There’s no better time than a nice long trail run to try out new running toys.  Check out some new trail shoes (they’re comfy).  Want a brighter headlamp?  Perfect opportunity.  That old CamelBak need replacing?  Good timing.  You can also stock up on things for the upcoming fall and winter with sales at your favorite running retailer.

**Trails are also dangerous places.  Wild animals are exactly that, wild.  Remember to play to safe with snakes, bears and even squirrels.  Wear some reflective gear, a headlamp if the dark is a risk and bring water.  Be sure someone knows where you’re going, what time you should be back and how to handle it if you’re not.**

Coach Meredith

Strong Hips for Runners: 3 Exercises

Runners need strong hips.  They’re the driving force behind every stride you take and the better they are able to perform the faster you’ll cover ground.  Tight hip flexors and weak glutes are common and contribute to a myriad of injuries from IT Band syndrome to runner’s knee.  Strengthening your hips and glutes helps prevent injuries while improving running form and increasing speed.  Here are four of Team ECRP‘s favorite hip power building exercises.

Fire Hydrant.  This simple body weight exercise is a winner for working the hip abductors.  Start with your hands and knees on the ground in an all fours position then lift your leg away from your midline.  Be sure to keep your hips still while focusing on the activation of hip and glute strong hipsmuscles.  Pause at the top then repeat for your desired number of reps and sets.

Clam Shells.  Another uncomplicated exercise, clam shells also work the hip abductors.  You can step the difficulty up by adding a resistance band above your knees but that’s not necessary to get the benefits.  Begin lying on your side with a neutral spine.  Bend your knees to 90 strong hipsdegrees and hips to 45 with your top leg stacked directly on your bottom one.  Keeping your feet together raise your top knee away from the bottom one (abducting your hip).  Pause at the top then repeat for your target number of reps and sets.

Seated Band Hip Abduction.  Use this move to earn strong hips anstrong hipsd glutes.  Begin sitting on a bench or chair with a flat back and feet flat on the floor shoulder width apart.  Place a resistance band around your legs above the knees.  Grip the front of the bench with both hands and maintain good posture while you pull your knees apart.  Do not let your knees cave in after you pause and return to the starting position for your goal reps and sets.

Strong hips are important and using these three exercises will help you earn them.

Coach Meredith

3 Reasons to Plank Every Day

It sounds boring.  Perform a plank every single day.  There’s good reason to, however, especially for runners.  With endless options for the type of plank you choose to do there’s bound to be a few you can pick from.  No matter which ones you end up practicing you’ll get these three benefits and become a stronger runner.

Strength.  Planks increase core strength and stability while activating lots of other supporting muscles as well.  Regular plank works your entire frontal plane, from your chest to your quads.  Reverse it to hit shoulders and glutes along with those all important core muscles.  You can even add other movements to your planking.  Try a renegade row or windshield wiper for a planktougher challenge that will build strength through your whole running body.

Balance.  Performing unilateral varieties like side planks will help eliminate muscle imbalances  that can, eventually, lead to injury.  Less risk of injury is a big benefit of all strength training but especially of one side at a time work.  We all have a tendency to favor one side that becomes more and more dominant as we ignore it.  Making both sides pitch in leads to more power and more even impact during activity.

Better running.  With the strength and balance you’re building by tackling that plank each day your running form will improve.  You’ll have better posture with an upper body and core that can support faster running for a longer period of time.  Proper positioning also stretches the muscles of your foot, an area that often gets overlooked.  Fully functioning feet are an important part of quality running and planks can help.  Add those benefits together and it all means better race finishes.

Tip:  Create a set of flash cards each featuring a different variety with the type on one side and your times or reps on the other to record progress.

Coach Meredith

Running 101: Indoor Workout Alternatives

Winter.  Summer.  Each comes with its own set of weather based challenges.  From high temperatures to icy roads anyone can get forced into an indoor workout once in a while.  While it might seem like the dreaded treadmill is your only option there are plenty of alternative choices that are equally as effective at working you out.  As long you’re not ditching all your miles trying one of these alternatives will keep you safely inside and ensure a quality workout.

Water running.  If you have access to a pool water running can be a great option.  Frequently used as a tool for injured runners to stay in shape while the heal, running in deep water with the aid of a floatation device is a great alternative to dangerous outdoor conditions.  Pushing through the water will strengthen muscles and hip joints while still getting your cardio in.

Strength training.  Every runner needs strength training.  It provides tons of benefits from increased endurance to better form and faster times.  There are thousands of options for exercises and classes out there so find something you like.  Focus on higher intensity activities with weights on the heavier side to build running muscles.  Perform exercises that strengthen your entire body so it can support you for as long as you want to run.indoor workout

Plyometrics.  Plyometrics can fall under strength training or it can be performed on its own.  Jumping is a great way to build running power.  Whether it’s box jumps, jump rope or lateral bounds jumping around will get your heart rate up while making your quads, hamstrings, hips, knees, ankles and feet stronger.

Yoga.  With the massive variety of yoga classes available at most studios you’re sure to find something that will get your heart rate up.  Mobility is a big issue for lots of runners but having a good range of motion is incredibly important.  This indoor workout will help you stretch, open up joints and relax all at once.

Coach Meredith

Running 101: Injury Free Training

Every runner dreads injury.  Not only can it derail all of your recent training effort, it can be painful, uncomfortable and come with a potentially hefty medical bill.  The best way to keep logging miles without some sort of boo-boo or broken bone sidelining you is to use preventative care.  That can mean lots of things but here are Team ECRP‘s favorite ways to run injury free all year long.

Strength Train.  Strength training and cross training are extremely important elements of a training plan that helps you steer clear of injuries.  It will help you build muscle to support the pounding your body takes from running.  Strength training also makes you a more durable, injury resistant, athlete.  No matter what kind of strength training you choose make sure it’s something you like.  There are tons of options available out there from Crossfit to spin class so you’re guaranteed to find something fun.injury free

Listen.  Pay attention to what your body is telling you on a daily basis and you’ll be able to head off any injury before it happens.  Injury free running isn’t a dream.  It’s a reality if you’re able to pick up on what your body needs.  A day off?  An adjusted workout?  What about that massage you’ve been waiting for?  Stop waiting, rest up and tone it down.  No one know what your body needs better than you if you’re willing to listen to it.

Gear Check.  From chaffing to shin splints worn out, poorly fitted gear or improper gear can lead to disaster.  If you’re tackling trails, don’t wear your track spikes.  Be aware of training environment and dress appropriately.  Check in regularly with your clothing and especially your running shoes.  Crummy old shoes love creating problems from lack of support.  Stay injury free by having the right gear in the right condition.

Eat.  While every runner has different nutritional needs, eating is important.  Eating too much can lead to weight gain and numerous health issues while eating too little means your body can’t recover or build muscle like it wants to.  Poor nutritional habits can result in stress fractures, excess fatigue and bad workouts.  Consult a professional when designing your meal plan to make sure you’re taking in enough calories to stay injury free.

Coach Meredith

Are You Too Sick to Run?

Can I run?  Should I run?  Wondering if you’re too sick to run is a common questions for runners.  This is a tough question to answer.  Everyone reacts to feeling badly differently and we all recover at different speeds.  What one person can do with a slight head cold might not work for another.  Here are a few tips to help you determine if you should hit that session or stay inside.too sick to run

Weather.  Take into account the weather.  Bad weather isn’t going to help you get well.  Heading out into cold, windy or wet conditions when you’re feeling crummy isn’t a good idea.  Working out can put a lot of stress on your body so don’t make it even tougher but adding adverse outdoor conditions.  Have an indoor or cross training session instead of braving the elements if possible and don’t worry about one or two missed workouts.  You’re better off being healthy!

Move Around.  Sometimes getting up and moving around can help you feel better all on its own.  Increasing circulation and putting muscles to work will kick your body into repair mode.  We tend to be idle when we aren’t 100% and that can make things worse.  If it feels more like lack of motivation than actual sickness, get up and move.

The Neck Rule.  If your symptoms are above your neck, say a runny nose and mild headache, you’re good to go.  When symptoms present below your neck, such as coughing or weakness, you should probably skip out.  The single exception to this rule is a fever.  If your temperature is climbing, stay put and enjoy some chicken soup with a movie.

Activity Level.  Many tapering marathoners catch colds.  Their bodies are so used to repairing and fighting during months of training that when they take a breather the immune system goes bonkers.  You’re probably not too sick to run if that’s your situation.  You won’t be doing any incredibly challenging workouts anyway, so enjoy those few light weeks even if you’re not 100%.

Coach Meredith

3 Keys to Winter Training

Winter training is hard.  It’s dark, cold, windy, snowy or worse.  Unfortunately, working out during the bleak winter months is a must if you’re aiming for a spring race.  On the flip side, it winter trainingcan be fun to experiment and explore new avenues for staying on track with your training.  Here are three ways Team ECRP stays on track to rock their spring races.

Mix it up.  Try new things.  Crappy weather outside can force you indoors for workouts.  That doesn’t always mean the treadmill.  Try a spin class or going for a swim.  You can easily replace some of your easy aerobic runs with another activity that requires an equal effort without risking feeling like you’ve missed out.  You might even find something you really enjoy and want to stick with when the weather warms up.

Find a friend.  Or five or fifty or more.  Joining a training team or local running group can help you accomplish things you might not have ever imagined.  Running with a group can provide you with that accountability that helps you drag yourself out of bed on those dark, bone chilling (until you’ve warmed up) mornings.  A group can also help block wind while bringing laughter and memories that will keep you warm for a lifetime.

Be prepared.  Have a plan in place to deal with bad weather days.  Make sure you warm up before you head outdoors and have a dry set of clothes waiting for your return.  Most importantly, prepare your mind.  Be flexible with your winter training plan, unafraid to switch workouts to different days or perform a substitute activity.  Be sure to listen to your body but realize that pushing through a yucky run or two will only make you more prepared for race day.  You never know what you’ll face at the starting line.

Use these tips to power through your winter training and be ready when the weather’s nice to hit any goal you set.

Coach Meredith

 

5 Things Your Training Plan Needs

Training is tough.  Once you’ve picked that goal race getting there can be kind of crazy.  There are potential injuries, there’s bad weather to power through, there will be soreness and bad days.  A good training plan will help you overcome these challenges and toe the line on race day with all the tools you need to be successful.  Here are five elements your plan needs.

Miles.  You have to have an aerobic base to be successful at any racing distance.  The further and faster you want to go the more important these miles become.  While we don’t all have time to log the number professionals do, running 100+ miles per week, but you do have to push yourself.  Running those ‘easy’ miles makes you better at processing oxygen and increases mitochondria density.  That’s code for more energy production and better ability to use it.  More time on the road makes you mentally tougher while also building stronger muscles and making your stride more efficient.training plan

Speed Work.  To run fast you have to run fast.  Not only does running faster than race pace teach your body how to work hard, it gets more comfortable at those faster paces. There are big benefits to incorporating speed work into any training plan.  You’ll get stronger, faster and more efficient while having a little, or a lot, of fun with each workout.

Strength Training.  Being a stronger, more durable athlete means you’re going to be a better runner.  Work with your coach to develop a plan that will work for you.  Maybe a day with weights and a day of pure plyometrics will suit you best.  Squats and sit-ups after a run count and so does anything that challenges your body in a different way than running.  A solid strength plan will focus on muscle groups that help you run faster like hamstrings, glutes, lats and core.

A Recovery Team.  This team can be as simple as you and a foam roller or as complex as you’d like to make it.  Taking into account your nutrition, sleep and body care are incredibly important.  You might consider meeting with a nutritionist at the start of your plan and regularly throughout it.  A weekly trip to the massage therapist is never a bad idea to loosen up tired muscles and keep them that way.  Give yoga or pilates a try to keep muscles happy.  Your plan should include finding which methods work best for you and sticking with them.

Flexibility.  Potentially the most important element of a training plan is flexibility.  Bad weather, injuries and life can all happen at the worst moment.  That peak mileage week or prep race you’re running might not pan out the way you wanted it to.  That’s OK.  Being flexible with what’s on your weekly schedule will help you deal with an extra day off when your foot is sore or a shortened workout because it started thundering.  Maintaining flexibility means you are confident in the work you’re doing and don’t need to sweat a missed mile here or there.

Most important of all is keeping a record.  Whether it’s online with Strava or Garmin Connect, a spreadsheet or handy customized notebook, there’s nothing more valuable than looking back to see how far you’ve come.

Coach Meredith