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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

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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