Friday, January 13, 2012

Strength Training = Runner's Insurance

Let's talk about strength training... yet another facet of my training that I am convinced has kept me injury free.

Remember these guys? 

I got back into running in Fall '09. I've had a few weeks off here and there, mostly due to injury. The most common injury I've had is a strained hip flexor(s). Without fail, it has come back repeatedly during those times when I incorporated speedwork but failed to do strength training.

Every. Single. Time.


I'm no physical therapist or sports doc, but I believe that I am one of those people for whom strength training isn't a nice *complimentary* option to running; it's ESSENTIAL to my training. I suspect-and this is purely speculation-that I am too flexible. I have a dancer/gymnast background. I'm still fairly bendy. Much more than your average runner. I can't find the link anywhere, but I remember reading a study floating around a few months ago that discussed how better runners are actually *less* flexible. Or something to that effect. It's probably like a bell curve or something. Maybe there's a mid "optimum" range of flexibility and then on either side (too little or too much)... not good.  For me, I believe strength training helps to stabilize things down there and help strengthen the areas that may be a little lax (for lack of a better word).

Does that even make sense or am I completely talking out of my a**?


What do I do at the gym? 

I'll start with last year's marathon training cycle. I used this book: 

I found the running aspect of it to be decent. Hey, it got me under 4 hours (using his Intermediate Plan). I think what I enjoyed the most about his plan, however, was the strength training. Looks like you can get it on Amazon for $9.99 (Kindle) and $7.04 (used). I think the sections on the strength training are worth it. Like the running plans, he does beginner all the way to advanced. 

Onto this training cycle:

I'm sort of in a lifting rut although I've decided-this week and next-to suspend strength training until after my marathon. I felt like taking a break and allowing my muscles to recharge and rebuild before the big dance. 

Here's what I normally do though:
  • Smith Machine-I usually max out at around 95 pounds
  • Seated Leg Extension 
  • Calf Press
  • Leg Curls (prone)
  • Hip Adductor/Adductor (pervy looking machine)
  • Vertical Leg Lift Machine (for core)
  • Sit-Ups on Incline Bench (for core)
  • Assisted chin-up, tricep dip Machine
I do 3 sets of each. 1st set = 12 reps, 2nd set = 11 reps, 3rd set = 10 reps
After each set, I increase the weight by 5 pounds. Pretty tired after that 3rd set.

I shoot for twice weekly. During my next marathon training cycle, I hope to be able to add a 3rd strength session, but I'll be looking for something different. Ideally, I'd like to do three different strength workouts each week.

Blogger Chicago Runner Girl has recently posted a killer strength session that I will most definitely be incorporating. I actually did her circuit last week, but my hamstring seized up during my second set of single leg dead lifts... so that was the end of that workout. My coach was not too happy when I told him about it. I believe he wrote me something along the lines of "WTF to doing this less than 3 weeks out from your marathon?!?!" Yeah, I know. Big time knucklehead move on my part.

Also, I recently received a copy of P90X from a very thoughtful friend, so that's another option I'm excited to try to spice things up.

So tell me about your strength training... Do you pump it up?


  1. When life gets in the way of marathon training, my strength training is always the first workout I skip. :( I've never been able to get into a good strength training routine. It's always good to have something to improve on though...or something like that. :)

  2. I promised myself I would after Portland and just didn't have enough time getting ready for Houston. I absolutely will for Big Sur (need to pump up those girly thighs for Hurricane Point).

  3. Still working on this....britt a la Chicago does have a great strength routine.

  4. I've definitely found it's essential to keep me injury free, too. (And i tend to fall in the unflexible-runner category as well!) I aim for 2-3 times a week, either a Bodypump class at the gym, or Jillian's No more trouble zones, though I've been slacking a lot the last month. Thanks for the reminder!