When I started getting into running a few years ago, it surprised me to find out that running, while definitely the main exercise, is certainly not the only exercise needed in order to be a strong runner. Strength training is an important part of being a strong, fast, and healthy runner, and has become part of what makes training even more enjoyable. It adds variety to the challenge and is legitimately fun. Who wouldn’t rather do a bunch of burpees than eat a cheeseburger over lunch break? While I definitely spend a lot of time running around town, trails, and country thinking about what I’m going to blog about next – I also spend a lot of time at the gym, where if I think about what I’m doing too much, it all seems quite peculiar.
Three to four times a week, I can be found in the rooms and hallways of the fitness center picking up heavy things and putting them back down; twisting from side to side, pretending to throw a heavy ball over my shoulder; and walking oddly up and down a hall, taking big steps and sinking to the ground. One of my current favorite exercises has me looking rather like a flamingo, pecking slowly at the floor and standing back up straight before doing it all over again (all, of course, while holding a 12-pound ball).
These odd routines and repetitions are all helping me build muscles that help my body stay upright while running, not flopping poorly side to side or limping heavily mile after mile just to cross a finish line and crumple in pain that would likely stay with me for weeks after.
Finding the time to do strength training or other cross training (such as cycling) is difficult. Though I’ve noticed that generally, if a thing is worth doing, it is going to be challenging – a key to this training of which I have to be reminded regularly. I’m fortunate to have access to a free gym where I work, so I head there on my lunch break and do my strange calisthenics. A few weeks of consistent work will yield noticeable results in the speed and comfort of my increasingly long runs, which certainly makes it worth the extra time and effort.
Consistent strength training also makes it possible for me to participate in exciting events like the one I was in this week! Saturday morning was a lot of fun. See below to find out why!
Tomahawk Medicine Ball Workout (four circuits)
The link takes you to one of my favorite websites for advice and information about becoming a better runner. I’m not recommending that everyone go out today with their favorite heavy ball and attempt this workout. It’s just what I like to do, and I’ve seen great results from it. (You’ll also see what I’m talking about with the flamingo exercise.)
ITBS Rehab Routine (hip strength)
Trail running in Audubon! Ashley took a spill this time and now has two glamorous wounds gracing her knee. I often feel like it’s only a matter of time before I pay my literal pound of flesh for using the woods for fitness.
The Arena Challenge!
Evansville’s Ford Center is home to a variety of events. This weekend, it played host to around 150 athletes (including myself) running for three miles through its halls, VIP seating, backstage, and loading dock. There were purportedly 1,000 steps that we all covered (but who’s counting?) before ending up in the bottom of the bowl where we scrambled over a van, climbed over short walls, and hopped over the hood of a car before crossing the finish line. They also, graciously, provided us with five exercise stations between sets of stairs: squat jumps, pushups, burpees, ball slams, and mountain climbers. It was a tough run, but two bananas and a bottle of water later, I wished I could run it again. This was a great cross-training day – and I got a medal and a T-shirt for my efforts!
There’s no rest for the weary. My long run this week, while being a drop back week, was still six miles, and the Arena Challenge was only three miles of running, which, you might notice, is fewer than six miles. So, Sunday morning, I headed out into the 94 degree, 70% humidity air and ran a grueling 6.77 miles at a dismal pace. My calves were very sore from the countless steps I took at the Ford Center on Saturday morning. The sun burned relentlessly as I made my way along shadeless streets. The humidity squeezed my breath away and prevented my body from cooling. It was a very hard run. I kept telling myself if it’s worth doing, it’s going to be challenging and continued moving forward. If the hard ones are where you grow, then I grew quite a bit this week.