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A case for strength training for runners.


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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I have been doing a lot of thinking about my recent half marathon in Cleveland and what exactly brought about such a dramatic reduction in my overall finishing time. The reason I feel it is so important to hash all of this out like this is that it is easier for me to see facts, trends, and patterns if I lay it out in writing VS juggling it all around in my head.

In short, I am seriously becoming more and more at odds with my old, chronic cardio ''party till I puke'' mentality - my mentor will be proud. Anyone that has known me for a significant length of time can attest to my mentality of push as hard and as far as I can and then go farther because such Herculean efforts bring a sense of warped affirmation and validation.
The price tag has been heavy doses of Ibuprophen, hanging on the railing to climb stairs, pain and chronically sore joints. All in the name of validating my manhood.
I have been slowly changing my tune over the last few months and this last race has largely turned my attitude around.

I strongly believe that strength training will not only improve running performance but will also preserve it during times of injury where you cannot log the miles and that the obsessive ness over logging a lot of weekly miles just because you feel you will somehow lose all your fitness if you don't is a recipe for disaster.

My case is as follows:

1) After my first half marathon, I did not allow myself to recover properly and in my zeal I injured my IT band. For those not familiar with an IT band injury
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Il
iotibial_band_syndrome

In short it totally shut me down for months. Anyone who has dealt with a running injury knows how mentally taxing it is to deal with an injury that puts you out of commission. I worked with my trainer with ST and basic conditioning exercises for almost 5 months. I ran very little. Conventional wisdom would tell you that my running fitness would have gone down the toilet. I finished the Green Bay Half Marathon 5 minutes slower than the first one with very little run training. I didn't lose a thing.

2) Late last year I got a good case of Plantar Fasciitis. The inflammation started shortly after my marathon then the straw that broke the camels back was doing too many squats and other stuff at Crossfit. I could barely walk much less run. I was out of commission again for months on end. Even when I thought I was OK after a few pain free months, a short run would tell the story that I was not. Mental anxiety ensued about lost fitness, feeling like I lost my way etc... It was at that time I started seriously looking into kettlebells. After several months of this agony and VERY little running, I PR'd my 5k time at a local race.

3) This year. I trained very little for the Marquette Half and it showed. Time constraints and other issues kept me off the roads like I felt I needed to be. I PR'd my half time with a time of 3:15. Not impressive by other standards but it was good for me. I got alot of cramps toward the end and it was hardly a glorious finish.... Then a few weeks later I started seriously training ( my KB was hit and miss) after a few weeks of this intense training 3x per week and very little running again, I finished the Fall Classic HM with a 2:59, thats almost 16 min off my time... a huge time gain. Yes I had a friend pacing me but if you don’t have the strength or endurance to work at that pace, you are going to shut down. I also did experience some difficulties in the race BUT it was not like it was before and it happened much later.

Bottom line results: In every instance I was able to preserve fitness and even improve on top of reducing the severity of cramping. I have also read that cramps are just as much a part of muscular imbalance as it is electrolyte depletion. Small discrepancies can produce big issues at the long course distances whereas it isn’t so much a problem when at the shorter 5+10k distances.

These findings plus what I have been reading about “chronic cardio” have really gotten me to rethink my training strategy. I am not saying you do not have to train or work up to a distance but I am seriously taking issue with this anxiety driven mindset that has people freaking out if they miss a few training days because life happened. I am also taking issue with the “chronic cardio” mindset where the routine is based on these intense, long cardio sessions with no ST and little recovery. Just because you feel good doesn’t mean you are good. There is healing that needs to take place on a very deep level that doesn’t go away just because one takes a rest day. The pounding I have delivered to myself I feel has actually set me back and now I am smarter.

The next 4-5 months will be devoted to ST, light cardio and stripping off the fat. I know it will work. So far my history has proven that nothing will stall my weight loss faster than “chronic cardio”

It’s time to change that.
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  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SERASARA 1/9/2013 7:52PM

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EFFRAYECHILDE 12/19/2012 9:18AM

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DEENANATAF 12/16/2012 1:55AM

    Thanks for this. It is exactly what I needed. Haven't run in almost two weeks bec. I was overseas and am beating myself up. Now thanks to your blog, I feel a bit more confident that I will be able to get back to where I was.

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PENOWOK 12/14/2012 9:14AM

    It's always amazed me how we think we are so smart and doing the right things and then we find out we haven't been so smart after all, so we adjust and keep on adjusting. Maybe someday, we'll have it ALL right!

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SATCHMO99 12/14/2012 3:04AM

    You're now into the "fit to run" rather than the "run to get fit" arena. I found doing a cardio boot camp (one without a yelling army instructor) really improved my running speed. Especially good is where you have a band round you and your buddy has hold of the ends and tries to stop you running. Also excellent is pool running.

Well done!

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NEWMOM20121 12/13/2012 8:53AM

    Great blog.

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BLUEJEAN99 12/13/2012 1:55AM

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ONLYTEMPORARY 12/12/2012 11:51PM

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ILIKETOZUMBA 12/12/2012 10:54PM

    Thank you so much for posting this; this is exactly the kind of thing I need to be reading. I am one of those people who freaks out about "lost fitness" if I can't do my usual hour+ runs or at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-high-intensity cardio a day. I panicked when I had to have abdominal surgery that prevented me from running for 3-4 weeks (I cheated and made it 2, actually, but still). Your experiences make me feel better about the inevitable times when I won't be able to do my usual workouts for whatever reason. Also, I hadn't heard of "chronic cardio" but I've googled it now, and I'm thankful for the information! Keep taking care of yourself. :)

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CICELY360 12/12/2012 10:04PM

  good blog

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IAMAGEMLOVER 12/12/2012 9:43PM

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HEARTS116 12/12/2012 8:26PM

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MARYJEANSL 12/12/2012 8:10PM

  Very smart - it's not a good thing to work your body into the ground (or into injury). You are definitely on the right track now - best of luck to you!

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JIBBIE49 12/12/2012 8:02PM

    Great to see you featured in the Spark Mail. emoticon

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SHOAPIE 12/12/2012 6:08PM

    emoticon

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SJKENT1 12/12/2012 5:13PM

    Oh the learning we will learn if we just do it

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ALIDOSHA 12/12/2012 5:11PM

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SANDYLH1 12/12/2012 4:53PM

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CHARTHESTAR 12/12/2012 4:14PM

    thanks for sharing. ST does wonders for you and your body. I did i with my trainer. Now i need to do it on my own! Thanks for the reminder.

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DIANNEMT 12/12/2012 4:12PM

    I really wish I could find a good kettle bell instructor! I like the weights stuff more than the cardio--some runner I am!

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PATRICIAANN46 12/12/2012 3:03PM

  emoticon advice. emoticon

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BLUE42DOWN 12/12/2012 1:37PM

    I definitely swear by the improvements that come from strength training. I didn't run first, weight lift second. I started out walking, added weights work, and now when I need to run for a bus or just want to throw a jogging interval into my walks or keep up with the dog, I do it without issue. I still don't run as a chosen activity - because I just don't like it - but the strength training took me past any hump to be ABLE to run without a C25K style program.

The best part is what you've mentioned. Strength training conditions the body, building up more than just musculature. It increases bone density, as well as improves the functioning and durability of tendons, ligaments, and joints. (At least ... when done right. It is sadly possible to do it all wrong and have massive biceps and nothing else. =P )

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LINDAKAY228 12/12/2012 12:59PM

    Strength training is vitally important to a runner. A couple of years ago I had severe sciatica for a few months that was extremely painful. I used water aerobics and a cardio machine that I pedaled with my arms like a bike to help me stay in shape when I could hardly walked and it helped greatly. It's all about balance. Too much of either one without the balance of the other is not helpful. Sounds like you have a good plan for the next few months.

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KARRENLYNN 12/12/2012 12:23PM

    I had plantar fascitis in both feet when I started a new job as a janitor, pounding tile and cement floors everyday, and not wearing well padded shoes. It was brutal to clear up, I finally had to quit. I literally planned my day around how much standing and walking I had to do. I learned how to keep that from happening again.

You're doing great and the more you learn the better your results are going to be. Keep up the great work!

Karen

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LIFE2BFUN 12/12/2012 12:07PM

    I am down for six weeks (four weeks to go) due to a hip flexor strain. I thought I was doing everything right - I take cardio and ST classes at the gym and followed a C25K program (total of six days a week schedule). My husband thought I was working the lower legs too much, but I felt fine.

After reading your blog, maybe that's true. I will need to rethink my workout schedule when I can go back to the gym in January.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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LIVELYGIRL2 12/12/2012 11:21AM

  Very interesting and helpful. Can you do ST without going to a club. ? and using weights ?

Would you be so kind to telling us something more specific on that ? emoticon

I tied to start running several months ago. I just wanted to do a session or two with my sister who has lost nearly 100 pounds. I did slow walk/ run mini sessions. After about 3 weeks: I had some pain in my left hip and later my back.

I thought it was either the IT muscle or that one that starts with a letter P.

I don't know anyone to get personal feedback.

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JOANNHUNT 12/12/2012 11:00AM

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MOMMY445 12/12/2012 9:58AM

    Great reminders!

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NEWCHINELO 12/12/2012 9:58AM

    Thanks for sharing.

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CLAYARTIST 12/12/2012 9:44AM

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KBRADFORD88 12/12/2012 9:36AM

    I know you have a lot of responses to this idea so I'm giving my own 2 cent experience...strength training is so wise on so many fronts...runners have to be careful not to overdo anything. runners tend to be a little over zealous by nature..I mean we run right? I found several truths when I ran...1. 4 days was plenty and then only if I was training for something long like a 10K. 3 was fine the rest of the time. Strength training for me had to include HIIT or my weight loss stalled. No stretching for me meant injury. My tight hamstrings translated into knee and ankle trouble. Old shoes more problems. This is such a science of figuring out what works for you. I also found overtraining made me sick...and felt rough a lot. This was also due to not enough fat. I now eat real fat...butter, whole milk, coconut oil and find I feel so much better. I wish you luck as you figure out what your body needs and wants. Oh and I take magnesium and the cramps went away...*Natural Calm ...helps my bad attitude too emoticon )

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DNRAE1 12/12/2012 9:25AM

    Good advice! Thanks.

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BECKYANNE1 12/12/2012 9:06AM

    My Dr. has been saying the same thing to me lately. Although I'm not able to do any
ST yet, as soon as I get the ok, I'm going to work much harder at it. After surgery, the running has been a struggle. It's frustrating, even though I will get it back and with proper training should come back stronger.

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WALLINMW 12/12/2012 8:53AM

  Great reminders!

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LIFETIMER54 12/12/2012 8:39AM

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SANDYCRANE 12/12/2012 8:35AM

    Makes good sense. My son runs, bikes, swims and lifts weights. When he was in high school he did the P90X program and he has never had any injuries. My daughter is on a college cross country running team and they always strength train, she did this is high school also. I have been doing a lot of Leslie Sansone and Nicoles Spark DVD and have had no injuries. I work out in my basement on a cement floor with older shoes and am injury free. I will be looking forward to reading about your foray into strength training.

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MIMIDOT 12/12/2012 8:33AM

    Thanks for sharing. Your blog contained a lot of good information.

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JANEMARIE77 12/12/2012 8:27AM

    good for you

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CLRWILLIAMS25 12/12/2012 7:40AM

    Thanks for sharing! I've been needing a push to get me ding more strength training instead of just torching calories with running.

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RUNNERRACHEL 12/12/2012 7:19AM

    ST does help! I have had similar experiences. I was not running for a while due to an ankle injury. Just got back to it and I've PR'd in 10k, 15k and half marathon races. I am faster, more efficient, and stronger.

Thank you for sharing your experience. Cross training does help, especially when injured.

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KANDOLAKER 12/12/2012 7:05AM

    Great lessons - thanks for sharing!!

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FARIS71 12/12/2012 6:01AM

    You are an angel to me this morning. Doing first half on Sunday. Nursing a foot injury. Feeling like I've lost all the progress I've made over last 2+ years. Headed to the gym for some ST.

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DIXIECAP79 12/12/2012 5:50AM

    emoticon

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TRYINGHARD54 12/12/2012 5:44AM

    keep up the good work

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NCSUE0514 12/12/2012 5:28AM

    Great post

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AMANDACOETZER 12/12/2012 4:44AM

    Thanks for that!

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JUNEAU2010 12/11/2012 11:51PM

    Wisdom for us all!

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REGILIEH 12/11/2012 11:34PM

    emoticon Wisdom!!! emoticon

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MOBYCARP 12/11/2012 9:25PM

    I think you're on to something here. I trained from being a non-runner up to doing a 10K pretty quickly, and was injury free . . . until I ran too much stretching too hard, too fast for a half. Oh, and in the process I let weight lifting fall by the wayside.

So now the plan is to get back into running, but not devote so much time to it that it squeezes out the weights entirely. And maybe have some goals for weights to keep myself motivated. I think it would be cool to be able to squat my weight for reps. I'm not there yet, but it seems possible in the not so distant future.

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ALDEBARANIAN 12/11/2012 8:48PM

    Makes a lot of sense

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