Tag 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

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

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