Category Archives: Strength Training

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

3 Reasons to Start Running Hills

No one likes to see a race course filled with hills.  It makes for harder work and less of a shot at a PR.  Fortunately there are big benefits to running hills while you train for any race, especially an up and down one.

Pure Strength – It’s hard work running uphill.  running hillsMore muscle fibers have to fire and generate power to maintain your flat ground pace running uphill.  It also requires different muscles to work in different ways than flat running does and that’s good for building powerful running glutes.  In contrast, running downhill gives your quads tons of work to do and is also something that should be practiced regularly.

Build Confidence – If you can rock it in practice, you can beat it on race day.  Tackling hills on training runs is an invaluable tool in preparing for the unknown of an unfamiliar race course.  Being comfortable with running uphill a bit slower than race pace and down the other side a bit faster can be a huge benefit on a tough course.  Learning to control your downhill speed can also be a big help later on in a net downhill race.

Speed Work – Like speed work on flat ground, running hills makes you work harder than normal.  The knee drive and power required to run uphill lead to better running form and glute activation.  It’s a good place to work on increasing turnover or cadence for faster running and lower injury risk long term.  Increased resistance to fatigue and increased overall endurance are additional benefits of hill sprints.

Adding hill work to your training plan is important no matter what your next running goal is.  Make sure you use a qualified coach when you’re ready to start running hills so you do safely.

Coach Meredith

The Value of Plyometrics for Runners

Plyometrics are one of the most valuable tools runners can have at their disposal.  They are defined as “a system of of exercise(s) in which the muscles are repeatedly stretched and suddenly contracted.”  The goods news that includes running.  Yes, running itself can be a plyometric exercise, especially sprinting.  The second piece of good news about plyometric work is that it’s tons of fun while benefiting your running in several ways.plyometrics

Those benefits include building power, strength and coordination.  Explosive exercises have been shown to increase your running economy and speed more than dynamic weight training.  How?  Jumping requires lots of fast twitch muscle fibers to work together.  The advantage of training fast twitch fibers to work is that it teaches muscles to generate more power.  The more force you put into the ground the less time you spend there.  Less time on the ground means a faster finish in your next time trial.

Plyometrics also teach our bodies to use oxygen more efficiently.  If a muscle can generate lots of power or force quickly it’s going to be more efficient at any speed or effort level.  Yet another advantage?  You’re likely to be a little less sore after a good hard plyo workout than you might be after a heavy weight training session.

To start your plyometric program, find things to jump on, over and up.  Boxes, agility ladders, stairs, hills or even nothing at all will give you plenty to work with.  Examples of exercises include box jumps, jumping rope, agility ladder drills, bounding and skipping.  Jump squats, jumping lunges, single leg hops and broad jumps are other useful options.

The variety of exercises you can include in your plyometrics routine is endless.  Find and consult with a qualified coach to begin your plyometric training and see better finish times in just a few weeks.

Coach Meredith

Running 101: Do You Need an Off Season?

Professional runners across all disciplines get an off season.  Whether they’re choosing to compete at certain times of the year or their sport predetermines it, they are sure to take time off between seasons.  For those of us who aren’t professional athletes, however, options to compete carry on all year long.  You can run a 5k every single weekend if you want to but you can’t race one.

If you’re just out there to get moving every time you toe the line, odds are you aren’t training at a very high level.  You might run for fun.  You might just run with friends.  If, on the other hand, you’re an age group or contending athlete your training is intense.  The more intense each training cycle is the more likely you are to need an off season.  Here are three reasons why.off season

Recover.  Injury prevention is a big reason to take an off season.  Our bodies cannot continue indefinitely to be beat up the way they are when we train and race hard all year long.  Work load is dramatically decreased, especially running, during the off season.  Both our minds and bodies need a break from the constant barrage of stimuli that come along with a hard training cycle.

Repair.  Take the time now to deal with any lingering issues.  See that physical therapist you’ve been putting off.  Get massages and take bubble baths.  Build strength in the muscles that got you through race season.  Eliminate weak spots and work towards strength goals that will help you run faster next race season.

Plan.  Goal setting is incredibly important.  Use this down time to look back at how your season went.  Why did it go that way?  Put time and effort in determining what went well and what didn’t rather than nailing each workout.  Decide what races you’ll target during your next training cycle and how to best prepare for them.  Set realistic goals based on past performances.

Taking an off season can be a wonderful training tool and a welcome break.  It’s the time to relax and have fun while letting your body heal and prepare for the next cycle of hard work.

Coach Meredith

Running 101: Cross vs Strength Training

Often used interchangeably, cross training and strength training are something all runners should have in their training plan.  They are, however, not the same activities.  Cross training is any activity that increases or maintains your fitness while giving you a break from your most trained modality.  That means biking or kayaking if you’re a runner and swimming or rowing if strength trainingyou’re a cyclist.  It also means strength training.  Strength training is a type of cross training that makes your muscles stronger, not just give your body a variety of stimuli.

Cross training makes us better athletes.  It gives our bodies different stresses to respond to and leads to more flexibility with improved coordination.  It helps prevent injury, aids recovery and staves off boredom.  Having options other than running is also a must for when the weather gets ugly.  Too hot, too icy, too windy or too dangerous, you don’t need to miss a workout if you have a solid cross training option ready to go.

Strength training, on the other hand, is meant to make us stronger.  Building muscle mass isn’t strength trainingour goal as runners but being tougher is.  A weak core means poor posture and less speed.  Stronger legs generate more power and last longer in a race.  Unilateral strength exercises eliminate muscle imbalances and improve balance.

Runners should focus on exercises and activities that will strengthen running specific muscles while being sure not to neglect your incredibly important upper body.  Improve power with box jumps and jump rope.  Maintain good posture with push-ups and pull-ups.  Keep your core strong with planks and sit-ups.  Stay even with lunges and step-ups.

Any quality training plan will include both cross training and specific strength training.  They are key elements in building a quality athlete who is injury resistant and ready to compete successfully.

Coach Meredith