A year or so a go, a friend responded to a survey asking him to state the one word that best encompassed what running means to him with the word “routine.” There is a lot of power in that concept, as it’s the attitude of creating a routine (and therefore a habit) that gets you out the door every day (or most days). And since consistency is the key to long term success as a runner, regardless of your goal, making it routine can be a real asset.
But there can be a point where routine becomes limiting. The negative connotations of the word include “boring”, “repetitive”, “unexciting”. So it should be easy to see that too much routine can lead to getting into a rut, or to burnout. Worse, when you have tunnel vision about the manner in which you train, you miss opportunities that are even only slightly different from what you are used to. This in turn can lead to shortfalls in your performance, as it is often new opportunities that bring the biggest growth opportunities
One topic I’ve struggled a bit with as a coach and in designing my own training has been how to integrate hill training into the program. I’ve ranged from one extreme (structured hill repeats with goal times and the distance and repetitions progressing through the season, in preparation for the Akron Marathon) to the other (nothing structured but just incorporating hills into long runs to get ready for the Towpath Marathon).
We all know the potential benefits of running hills regularly:
But how do we best realize these gains and make the most of the time (and energy) we invest in hill workouts?
Photo Credit: LocalFitness.com.au
Update 10/15/12: In keeping with the designations established by Jeff Gaudette of Runners Connect in his outstanding strength training progression, I named this workout “Kratos” after a Greek god of strength and power. It should be considered a second step in a progression from the “Bia” hip routine.
Strength work adds several potential benefits for runners, including:
It can be tough to fit in traditional weight- or equipment-based training, when such involves a trip to the gym. Fortunately, there are plenty of bodyweight exercises that can do the trick, within the comfort of your own home and whenever it is convenient to fit it in.
This routine is a general upper leg workout that focuses on muscles often left out of balance from running, as running tends to “excessively” strengthen the quads. These muscles or ligaments include:
This routine takes between 25 and 40 minutes to complete and the only equipment required is a Pilates band ([amazon_link id="B0065VNQFE" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Thera-Band[/amazon_link]) and a [amazon_link id="B000VDXFU8" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]stability ball[/amazon_link]. It is a combination of elements from Jason Fitzgerald’s ITB Rehab Routine on Strength Running, Jon-Erik Kawamoto’s Runner’s Six Pack from the January 2012 issue of [amazon_link id="B001TP73U0" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Running Times[/amazon_link], and a suggestion from Chip on a prior post about hamstring maintenance exercises.
Lateral Leg Raises
These work the hip abductors. Lay on your right side with the Thera-Band near your ankles. While keeping your legs straight, lift your leg slowly to a 45-degree angle against the resistance of the band. Lower slowly, and repeat 25 times on each side.
This exercise works the hip abductors and gluteals. Lay on your right side with your knees bent at a 45-degree angle and the Thera-Band wrapped around your lower thighs. While keeping your ankles together, lift your left knee slowly to a 45-degree angle, opening like a clam. Lower, and repeat 25 times on each side.
This exercise also works your hip abductors and gluteals. Stand with your knees slightly bent and legs spread sufficient enough to keep the Thera-Band around your ankles. Step to the left against the resistance of the band, and then bring your right foot together (so you have moved to the left). Repeat 10 times to the left, and then 10 times back to the right, and do a total of 5 sets.
This exercise works primarily the gluteals. There are a couple of single-leg versions of the exercise. I prefer the one with your shoulders supported by a couch, with your arms extended the length of the couch. Both knees should be bent 90 degrees, with your weight supported by your upper back and feet. Raise your right leg off the ground and keep it raised. Lower your hips to the ground (but don’t rest on the ground) and use your left leg to raise back up, clenching your glutes at the top. Lower slowly, and perform 3 sets of 12 reps on each leg.
Alternative: These can be performed on the ground, with your weight supported on your shoulders/upper back and one leg. The other leg should be raised. Raise and lower your hips using one leg. Do either 3 sets of 12 reps or 25 reps straight on each leg.
Single Leg Squats, Rear Leg Extended
This is a broadly useful exercise as most squats are, targeting the gluteus maximus, quadriceps, and hamstrings. Stand a short distance in front of a couch on your left leg, with the right leg extended behind you and the top of your right foot resting on the couch. Lower your body slowly until your left knee is at a 90 degree angle, then rise back up. Repeat this five times on each leg and do three to five sets.
Alternative: Pistol squats (with your non-active leg extended in front) offer additional challenge by requiring good balance during the squats.
Single Leg Deadlift to Standing High Knee
This exercise targets the glutes, hamstrings, and hip flexors (iliopsoas). Assume the single-leg deadlift position with your trunk bent forward and right leg extended behind, so that your body forms a tee. After holding for a few seconds and feeling the stretch in the hamstring, raise your trunk while swinging your rit leg down and through, keeping it going to bring your right knee smoothly towards your chest. Hold with your knee above 90 degrees for 8-10 seconds, then return slowly to the deadlift position. Repeat five times for each leg, and do three to five sets.
This exercise develops strength in the hamstrings. Lay on your back with your legs up on a stability ball, with the calves contacting the ball. Bend your knees and raise your back simultaneously, bringing your feet to the ball. Continue raising until your knees are at a 90 degree angle. Hold for a second, then return slowly to the starting position. Repeat 15 times and do three sets.
Alternative: If these become too easy, then you can move to a single leg version.
Performing this routine two or three times per week, maybe after a shorter anticipation run, can help simultaneously improve your running form and efficiency and increase your resistance to injury. To get a good hour-long workout in, combine it with a core routine optimized for runners.
A few months ago, I participated in a chat hosted by Run Your BQ’s founders Jason Fitzgerald and Matt Frazier, with the topic being how to become a predawn runner. While I be blunt in stating that the chat was nominally a waste of time (there were maybe six attendees, though I understand that it was archived on the site for future viewing), I did have one valuable takeaway from the session. The biggest barrier to predawn running for most athletes (besides the whole “getting up early” thing) seems to be not knowing what to eat before running.
This amazed me. My answer has always been pretty simple – “nothing.” Perhaps because I’ve always done it that way, not having food before I run has never been an issue for me. Not before the short recovery run, not before the tough tempo or repeat workout, and not before the 20-mile-plus long run.
As the parent of a child with autism, I support efforts to create a better life for individuals and families dealing with this challenging condition. As opposed to awareness or research organizations where it’s tough to make a significant impact as an individual, I prefer organizations that are focused on delivering practical solutions to families today, especially in the upcoming era of tightening health care dollars.
When Abbey Faris of the YAI Network inquired about advertising on Predawn Runner for the Central Park Challenge, of course I was interested. And as I learned more, I wasn’t really interested in selling ad space to such a good cause – I wanted to give them a free platform to promote this outstanding event.
It’s nearly impossible for a running blogger to avoid writing about the events in Boston this week, as any other topic seems trivial. While many have written about what it means to the running community or to the author as a runner, it’s important to discuss the broader aspects of what happened.
The natural tendency for a runner, especially one who has or aspires to run Boston, is to view the tragedy through that lens. To visualize the typical activities at a finish line and compare that to the videos we see repeated time and again. To turn to other runners for consolation and understanding or to express grief or fear. To view this as an attack at the soul of what it means to be a runner.