Category Archives: Strength Training

Cross-Training to Run Faster

With the summer training season in full swing and dreams of fall PRs all around, there’s no better time to add cross-training to your plan.  With an option out there for everyone, it’s easy to find something you enjoy doing while giving your body a break from the pavement and the heat.

It’s true.  No matter what you enjoy doing outside of going for a run there’s something for you.  Yoga, swimming, cycling and Crossfit all get the job done while making you a stronger athlete.  Here are some of the big benefits you’ll get from adding two or three non-running sessions to your weekly plan.

Lift weights.  Strength training is a great way to resolve the muscle imbalances many runners experience.  We’re all naturally stronger on one side than the other and running just makes that more pronounced.  By training unilaterally, one side at a time, with exercises like walking lunges, pistols and side planks, you’ll be a more balanced and less injury prone athlete.  Strength training also increases running economy which can help you hit that new PR even sooner.

Move your legs.deadlift  Spinning or cycling is a fun alternative to hitting the track and it’s also a great way to work on increasing your cadence.  A higher cadence means more efficient running and the bike is a perfect place to get your legs used to moving faster.  Cycling with tension uses leg muscles similarly to running uphill without the impact, reducing risk of an injury while building strength.  Hit the trails on a mountain bike or join a spin class to reap the benefits.

Less stress.  Swimming, cycling and rowing are low impact activities that increase fitness without additional stress on bones.  They can lower your risk of overuse injuries and stress fractures while improving overall cardiovascular capacity.  Even strength training can be considered low impact and is hugely beneficial to runners.

Mix it up.  Try different types of cross-training.  There’s no reason your non-running workouts always have to be the same.  Changing the stimulus your body experiences will make you stronger, fitter and faster.  Mountain bike on Monday, take a yoga class on Thursday and a recovery swim on Sunday to keep muscles fresh without overuse.

Find something you love.  The key with cross-training is to find something you enjoy doing.  You might even find more than one thing you love.  You’ll have the opportunity to meet new people, push yourself in new ways and have fun.  No matter what that activity is, you should look forward to your non-running workouts.

The most important thing about cross-training?  Be sure your alternative workout isn’t so hard it takes away from the quality of your target training runs.

Coach Meredith

Bed Time: Sleep Basics for Runners

There are days when you just can’t stop thinking about it.  Bed time.  It’s so cozy and comfy under those sheets.  Wanting to catch up on the sleep you didn’t get last night.  Looking forward to waking up feeling refreshed and strong.  While individual sleep needs might vary greatly, there’s no one who can survive without it.  Runners typically need between 7 and 9 hours per night but that can change as sleeptraining volume and intensity fluctuate.

Why so much sleep?

  • Any training adaptation occurs during rest, making it the most important part of recovery there is.  Training breaks down muscle and tissue that relaxes and is repaired by growth hormone released while snoozing.
  • Failure to get enough rest can result in over training and increased risk of injury.  Lack of sleep has also been shown to decrease response times and concentration.  Increases in levels of stress hormone, blood pressure and insulin resistance are also potential risks.

Getting quality sleep is a must and here are some good ways to improve your bed time routine:

Staying on a schedule is one of the best ways to ensure a good night’s rest.  Go to bed and climb back out at the same time each day.  This will help your body settle into a regular rhythm that includes a normal sleep-wake cycle with plenty of deep, recovery sleep included.

Consider using black out curtains to keep any light out.

Put the phone down.  When the sun goes down our bodies release melatonin, the sleep hormone.  The blue light emitted by most technological devices wrecks that cycle and make it harder to fall asleep, stay asleep and wake up feeling refreshed.  Wearing blue light blocking glasses for two hours, or leaving your devices behind for 30 to 60 minutes, before hitting the hay can aid your ability to conk out quickly.

Skipping caffeine and or alcohol for six hours before bed time is a must for high quality shut eye.  Both can cause major disruption to sleep patterns for a variety of reasons and it’s best to just stay clear of either substance when you can.

What about naps?  Naps can be a valuable tool for making up missed hours or getting an added pre-workout boost.  Be careful, however, to avoid snoozing for more than 30 minutes.  Anything longer than half an hour and you risk something called sleep inertia, a feeling of grogginess once you’ve woken up.

What if I still don’t get a good night’s rest?  When you are short on sleep consider taking the day off to recover or at least lowering your training volume with fewer, easier miles than planned.  You could end up doing more damage pushing through a workout tired than missing it altogether.  If you’re struggling with your training and think it’s causing excess stress or preventing you from getting an adequate amount of rest, consider reaching out to a coach for help reorganizing.

Coach Meredith

Running 101: IT Band Syndrome

Dreaded IT Band pain!

Runners stretch it, roll it and ice gun it but sometimes those muscle fibers just get grumpy.  While it might be a bother, it is also preventable and treatable.  A frequently experienced injury, many runners don’t know what the IT Band does or how to deal with it.  Here’s a little bit more to help you understand what you’re facing with IT Band pain.

The illiotibial band (ITB) is a large fibrous group of fascia that runs longitudinally down the outside of the upper leg.  Anchoring at the iliac crest and tibia, it’s a bunch of passive rubber bands that extend, abduct and rotate the hip laterally.  It also helps stabilize the knee while storing energy to support running and walking.IT band

IT Band syndrome (ITBS) is an inflammation of these tissues and typically presents with outer knee pain.  That is the area where the ITB should slide over bone and muscle easily. If it’s not sliding due to inflammation or tightness, pain will result.  Sometimes the pain can be felt along the entire length of the outer thigh and it’s often a result of overuse.  Two examples of exercise patterns that can lead to overuse are increasing mileage too quickly or running on hard surfaces.

There is good news, however.  There are several ways to treat and prevent ITBS.  The first step in treatment is to rest long enough for the inflammation to subside.  Second is to work on improving mobility of the hip and knee.  Limited range of motion in either joint can cause extra stress to the ITB and lead to inflammation.  Foam rolling and proper warm up to increase circulation to these fibers before a workout will help it slide painlessly.

Strength training with a qualified coach is one of the best solutions to ITBS.  Having muscles strong enough the support your increase in mileage or the strain of a downhill marathon will help prevent ITB irritation.  Hip, glute and abdonimal core strength are paramount to any solid strength training plan for runners who want to stay healthy.  These muscles also ensure your IT band gets the support it needs.

A final possibility is that it might not be it your IT Band at all.  The ITB is so passive it’s hard to know how it might get injured.  Since that research isn’t ready yet take a look at the muscles around it: your hamstrings and quads.  When these muscles get tight or damaged they can put stress on the IT band.  Relaxing the tight muscles through improved mobility or foam rolling can release stress on the ITB to reduce or eliminate pain.

Want to stay ITBS free?  Take good care of all the muscles it works with.  Be sure to strengthen, stretch and warm up properly.

Coach Meredith