Upper body strength is just as important for runners as lower body. When those legs get tired something has to support continued movement and that’s going to be your upper body. Having a strong back, powerful shoulders and a stable core will all help you run faster and with lower risk of injury. Here are four of Team ECRP‘s favorite ways to earn them. Each one will help you improve running form and stay strong over any distance you cover.
Banded Pull A-parts – This simple banded exercise strengthens your shoulders and upper back. Strong shoulders lead to better posture and running form by setting the shoulders in an externally rotated position. That means arms will travel forward and back without wasting any energy crossing the mid-line.
Push-ups – There are lots of variations for push-ups and they’re all good. Starting with a basic push-up to strengthen your shoulders, chest and core you can use them as part of a warm-up or any strength workout. Whether you modify them by dropping to your knees or maintain a plank position all the way through, push-ups will help train your shoulders to maintain good position when the going gets tough.
Renegade Rows – This key push-up version combines strength on both the anterior and posterior chains by adding a row. Using a light dumbbell you’ll train for good posture and a strong core with this one. Try to avoid round headed dumbbells, especially in the beginning, because they’ll want to roll and make you work a whole lot harder to stay in a good position.
Squat to Overhead Press – A fantastic combo move, the squat to overhead press works the whole body in one motion. Building power, improving coordination and getting stronger all are benefits of this simple exercise. Start with light weights and make sure you’re keeping your chest up without letting your knees fall in for 10 reps before stepping up to heavier dumbbells.
Add these four movements to your routine to build the stability and strength your upper body needs to carry you over every distance you cover with good form.
Loose hips are very important to any athlete. Unfortunately they often get overlooked in favor of large muscle groups like the quad, hamstring and calf that are easier to stretch. With hip extension being a major player in quality running form, tight hips can really hold you back. Not any more! Loose hips mean your glutes, piriformis, hip flexors, hamstring and quad can all move through a full range of motion with ease. All of those muscles play a big part in strong running and keeping them happy can lower your risk of injury while improving speed. Here are four simple hip stretches that will open you running powerhouse up.
Low Lunge. This simple hip opener is a classic. It opens the hip flexors and gets them ready to allow that all important hip extension. Beginning in a lunging position with your back knee on the ground, push the front foot away, engage your glutes and drive your hips forward.
Figure Four. Hit major muscle groups including the glutes and lower back along with your hips in Figure Four. Being laying on your back. Raise both knees over your hips and cross one ankle over the other knee. This is one of the best stretches you can do after a workout to aid recovery and stay ready for your next session.
Piriformis Stretch. The piriformis is often mistaken for the glute. Instead, it’s buried deep behind the gluteus maximus and rotates the hip outward. While you’ll also hit this muscle in a Figure Four but the spinal rotation here is a nice touch. Begin with both legs out straight. Cross one leg over the other and place the foot flat on the ground. Use your elbow on the outside of your bent knee to rotate away from the flat leg.
Pigeon. This tough movement will open your hips right up. To perform it begin in a plank or downward dog position. Cross the leg of the hip you want to open in front of the other, aiming your foot towards the opposite hip. Rest your elbow on the floor as you ease deeper into the stretch.
Adding these hip stretches to your warm-up, post run or strength routines, even all three, will not only feel great but make you a more mobile, injury resistant runner.
The holiday season can be challenging. There are parties and sugary goodies everywhere you look. Sleep might suffer with travel while stress can sky rocket with family and delays. Whether it’s a running workout or a gym based strength session planning ahead can keep you on track with your training plan. The holidays season can be stressful enough without adding a a few marathon training mileage weeks. Here are the ways Team ECRP keeps their workouts kicking while not missing one second of family time.
Include your family. Make it a relay race or competition. Especially if it’s a speed workout. Hit the local track and take your intervals to the next level as you compete with brothers and in-laws. Stuck with a group of non-runners? Go on a scavenger hunt through the neighborhood. You can run while others stroll. Getting creative and being flexible will not only get your session in, you can make memories that last a lifetime.
Do research. Get on the internet and find a gym with a daily or weekly drop in rate near your parent’s home. Discover a new running club and explore a new city with them. The people you meet will not only be new friends but give you leads on other trails, routes, yoga studios and maybe even a local 5k.
Schedule it. Flying? Arrange your training plan so that flight day is a rest day. Airports are rarely on time during the holiday season so planning ahead is paramount to staying on a training schedule. Planes are germ boxes and uncomfortable which can also make sleep suffer. Having a plan for moving workouts or even skipping one can lead to a healthier you when the new year kicks off.
Keep it simple. Remember you don’t even need a gym. There are thousands of body weight exercises you can do without any equipment in a small space. While it might not be fancy this type of workout can be extremely effective, especially if it’s not your usual routine. It’s easy to throw a resistance band in your suitcase. They don’t take up much room and can expand the number of exercises available to you exponentially.
Start planning now for that road trip and you’ll have no trouble staying on track with your workouts this holiday season.
All athletes know their next workout is only as good as their recovery from the last one. If you’re not able to bounce back from a tough session the next one will certainly suffer. No matter what type of event you’re training for, proper recovery is key to continuing progress. While we can’t always be perfect, here are four pitfalls you’ll want to avoid if improvement is your goal.
Starve. Eat! Eat something as soon as you can. Waiting too long will lead your body to breakdown rather than rebuild mode. Protein bars, chocolate milk, your favorite protein powder or a nut buttered bagel can get you through in a pinch but you’ll definitely want some protein, carb and fat within 30 minutes of wrapping up. Next be sure to get a full, well-rounded and nutritious meal within two hours.
Get cold. An ice bath might feel good but it’s not always the best idea. Dropping your core temperature too soon after a session shuts down the body’s all important inflammation response and prevents damaged muscles from getting the nutrients they need. This study found that heating muscles improved post recovery performance more than cooling them with a few exceptions. When working out multiple times a day cooling can speed the recovery process between sessions. Cooling can also aid in lowering core temperature before bed time, leading to higher quality sleep. So go ahead and take that hot shower, it won’t hurt.
Booze it up. That’s not to say you should skip the post race party. The entire list of pros and cons for a post run beer are covered here but if you’ve just finished a marathon, focus on giving your body something good for it first. It wants it! On the other hand, if all you were accomplishing was an easy fun run with pals, you can probably get away with a cold one along side your glass of water.
Skip the Nap. If you’re not planning a nap after your long run you’re going to miss out. Sleep is paramount to proper recovery. There are big benefits to a little snooze. Those include muscles being repaired, blood pressure dropping and your brain being recharged. The best idea is always to get a good, full night’s rest with 8+ hours of sleep but a nap is a great way to kick off the process.
Focus on recovering properly from every single workout and you’ll see progress.
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 body 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.
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 kicks 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.
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 muscles. 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 degrees 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 and 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.
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 tougher 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.