Tag 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

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: 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

Running Books for Your Reading List

There’s only one thing runners like to do more than run.  That’s talk about running but unfortunately our vocal cords occasionally need a break.  At that time, break out this reading list featuring some of Team ECRP‘s favorite, and most useful, running related books.

Pre (Jordan) – The story of America’s most fabled tracklete, Pre is a biography of Steve Prefontaine.  Well crafted and uncomplicated this exciting tale lends itself to page turning.  reading listWhile also providing a bit of education on the history of track and field, this short novel should be on every runner’s shelf.

Eat & Run (Jurek) – This chronicle of Scott Jurek’s ‘unlikely journey’ to ultramarathon greatness is peppered with lots of smiles and tasty recipes.  With a main focus on how nutrition effects performance, Eat & Run is a great resource for vegetarian and vegan athletes.  Even for meat eaters these recipes are worth a try.

Anatomy for Runners (Dicharry) – Get ready to learn.  Chock full of knowledge, Jay Dicharry’s guide will lead you to happier and healthier running.  Doesn’t the subtitle ‘Unlocking Your Potential for Health, Speed and Injury Prevention’ sound enticing?  Anatomy features exercises and explanations that are easy to understand and process.  A must read for runners serious about improving.

Born to Run (McDougall) – This massive best seller should definitely be on your reading list.  Even if you’ve already covered it, consider cracking it open again.  This epic tale of one runner’s desire to end foot pain started the minimalist movement.  No matter how you feel about zero drop shoes, the story of Mexico’s Tarahumara will inspire you and that next marathon registration.

Ready to Run (Starrett) – ‘Unlocking your potential to run naturally’ is Dr. Kelly Starrett’s goal with this big book.  So get ready.  This guide will teach you more about movement that you likely care to know but it’s 100% worth it.  The founder of MobilityWOD.com has worked with professional athletes from all fields of play and wants you to become a stronger, more efficient runner.

Build Your Running Body (MacGill/Swartz/Breyer) – Bob Anderson, the founder of Runner’s World, calls this the ‘best running book ever’ and there’s no arguing with that.  Yes, it’s full of physiology and science however it’s easy to understand and digest.  Following the guidelines in this book will help you run faster, reduce injury risk and have more fun.

Coach Meredith

The Every Runner Foot Care Plan

Having two healthy feet is something most runners take for granted.  Until one gets injured.  Foot care is often overlooked by runners who stretch hamstrings, quads and calves but miss their most important part.  Feet take the first impact of every step.  They also help us stay upright, balance and learn about our environments.  Here are some of Team ECRP‘s favorite ways to keep them healthy and happy.

Find the right shoes.  If your shoes are too loose they can rub and causing blisters.  Too narrow and you’re susceptible to callouses, too.  If they’re too small, add in the risk of black or foot carefalling off toenails.  When you buy running shoes, do so from a reputable running store and make sure the fit is correct.  And, once you have the correct shoes, know when it’s time for new ones.

Socks.  There are tons of socks out there, and you want to be sure you’re running in the right ones.  Cotton socks can lead to blisters while other materials, such as acrylic, can help protect your feet from rubbing by pulling sweat and moisture away.  You might need to vary your sock choice based on the weather, a light sock won’t be equally fit for a speed workout and racing a marathon.  Although there are lots of choices, socks are fairly inexpensive, so try different brands, fabrics and cuts until you find what works best.

Keep your feet dry.  This can be hard if you’re running in the rain, on the trails, in snow or on the beach.  Waterproof trail shoes are a great choice for those who brave nature, but for those who run mostly on pavement or a treadmill, the answer is usually to wear moisture wicking fabrics.  Never start with damp or wet socks and shoes and keep an extra pair nearby for when you’re finished.

Massage your feet by rolling them on golf or lacrosse balls, a rolling pin or foot roller.  Not only will a foot massage relax those hard working muscles, it’ll give you a few minutes to chill out foot careand take a break.  Be careful, though.  Rolling or massaging your feet too hard can cause damage to tender fascia and harm, rather than help, this important body part.

Make them strong.  Do foot and ankle strengthening exercises.  Weak feet mean you lose out on power and speed while increasing your risk of injury.  Try being barefoot as much as you can.  Shoes support muscles so they don’t have to work.  Taking off your shoes will strengthen the arch of your foot while aiding in your body’s ability to sense what’s happening around it.

Use these tips to keep your feet in good working condition and they’ll help you hit a new PR.

Coach Meredith

Upper Body Strength for Runners

All runners know they need strong, stable legs and hips to get the most out of each run.  Equally as important, and often overlooked, is upper body strength.  Being powerful above the hips as well as below will help you run faster and perform better during every workout.  Your arms move in precise coordination with your legs to help maintain rhythm while your shoulders work to maintain good posture that allows your lungs and diaphragm to do they best job they can.  A strong core stabilizes against rotation that wastes energy and helps propel you forward.

So how do you build upper body strength?  There are tons of exercises you can use.  Focusing on muscle groups that improve and maintain posture is the best path to building strength that will make you a better runner.  That means your back, chest, shoulders and, most importantly, core.  While you don’t want to end up carrying extra muscle weight by bulking up, you do want strong, stable muscles that will hold you up when the going gets tough.  Here are four of Team ECRP‘s favorite upper body moves:

Push-Ups:  Push-ups stabilize shoulder, strengthen arms and work those important core muscles.  Performing them correctly, with your elbows tight to your ribs and externally rotated shoulders, will improve running form and efficiency.

upper body strengthPlank Rows:  These toughies challenge your entire upper body.  Your shoulders and core work to stabilize your position while your back works to lift that weight.

Pull-Ups:  Adjustable for everyone, this challenging exercise is a great way to get a stronger, more stable upper body.  From strict pull-ups to ring rows, the wide variety of scaling options means there’s no excuse not to try.upper body strength

Overhead Press:  Yes, any overhead press will do.  Whether it’s a strict press, thruster, push-press or clean and jerk, lifting weights over your head takes skill and strength.  Your core stabilizes your entire body while shoulders work to push the weight up.

Use these four moves to help build upper body strength.  You’ll earn better running form and faster race times.

Coach Meredith

5 Yoga Poses for Runners

Yoga is an excellent tool for runners to have in their fitness toolbox.  While they don’t need tons of static flexibility, which can actually take power away from you, it is important to have strength through a full range of motion at all joints, especially the hips.  Spending a few minutes each day going through some or all five of these yoga poses will also help relieve muscle soreness and provide relaxation.

Downward Facing Dogyoga poses
An easy pose to do just about anywhere, down dog is an excellent way to wrap up a workout.  It stretches your arms, hamstrings, glutes, shoulders, calves and feet.  Hang out like your pup for up to three minutes taking deep breaths to build arm and leg strength while reaping the pose’s calming effects.

yoga posesWarrior 2
This standing pose will help you open those post run hips.  With feet 3.5-4 feet apart and your back foot turned out, reach from your shoulders with arms parallel to the ground.  Sink down until your front thigh is also parallel to the ground while your torso stays tall over your hips.  Perform on both sides to get all of the leg, hip, groin and ankle stretching and strengthening benefits.

Plankyoga poses
Of all the yoga poses, this one is one of the most simple.  Great for stabilizing your core, make sure you’re hips stay high and your shoulders are directly over your wrists or elbow when performing it.  Use this simplest plank to improve your running posture while strengthening your shoulders, arms and wrists.

Low Lunge
yoga posesThis hip opener is perfect for both before and after your run.  After stepping back with one leg be sure to keep your front shin vertical as you reach both hands to the ground on the inside of the front knee.  You’ll feel it stretch your hips, thighs and chest as you repeat it on both side.

yoga posesLegs on the Wall
You get a little help on this one.  Raising your legs vertically above your head while keeping your sit bones in contact with the ground might be the perfect pose.  It has health benefits as well as stretching ones.  It doesn’t matter how close you are to the wall in the beginning.  Tighter runners will need to be further away to keep their lower back supported.  You’ll move closer and your flexibility increases.

Add these yoga poses to your pre- and post-run routines to prevent soreness, relax and improve mobility.

Coach Meredith

5 Tips for Faster Recovery

Recovery is almost as important as your actual workout.  If you aren’t recovering from today’s workout how are you going to be ready to perform tomorrow?  The right answer is you won’t be.  Your body needs certain things pre-, post and hours after a good sweat session to get back in working order.  Here are five tips from Team ECRP that will help you feel great after today’s workout and fresh for tomorrow’s.

Eat right away.  Workouts burn through energy reserves.  If you want your body to build those stores back up, you’re going to have to feed it.  Proper nutrition after a session will help your tissues recoveryrepair. and muscles clean out any waste.  Post workout fueling should include complex carbohydrates, hydration and quality protein and occur within 30 minutes of a session.

Drink up.  Drinking fluids is important during a workout, especially for endurance athletes, but you’ll need even more when you’re finished.  Luckily, good old fashioned water is all most people need to help their muscles start the repair process.  Water helps the body get started with recovery by supporting all metabolic functions, most importantly flushing out the things that build up while you exercise and allowing much needed blood and oxygen back into torn up muscles.

Keep moving.  Beating your body up for an hour during a workout then slamming it to a stop when you fall down on the ground is asking for trouble.  It’s like crashing into a brick wall.  Cooling down properly is paramount to starting the recovery process.  Gentle movement, like walking, stretching or light yoga, is known as active recovery and are great choices.  Staying in motion promotes circulation, moving nutrients into needy muscles and waste from your workout out.  More nutrients and less waste lead to faster repair, less recoverysoreness and a better next session.

Relax.  Breathe deeply and go over your workout in your head.  If it was good, take note but if it wasn’t, learn something and move on.  While you recap, foam roll, stretch, or sit in an ice bath if you’re really in need.  If you’re lucky, you might even get a massage.  Like performing active recovery, massaging muscles promotes circulation and tissue repair.  An additional bonus:  you can do this while you eat that high quality post workout food!

Go to bed.  Sleep is the best time to recover.  When you’re snoozing the body produces essential Growth Hormone to repair and build muscles.  Getting plenty of quality sleep can lead to stronger muscles, better performance and more endurance.  You’ll also wake up with a more effectively working brain, in a better mood and a happy body.  In contrast, sleep deprivation has been shown to lead to decreases in performance, increases in recovery times and general grumpiness.

Use these tips to take your recovery plan to the next level and see the results you want sooner.

Coach Meredith