Sunday, March 28, 2010

Running Strong

The runner's workout is typically thought to be lungs and legs...and maybe some arms too, if technique is important to you. There's no doubt this is the case, but so many of us overlook the importance of strength training, me included. The past few months my experiences have led me to notice a greater and greater connection between the runner who is running well and the runner who is running strong.

I have to admit, this isn't my phrasing. I first heard it from North Shore runner Eric Langhjelm, who called his blog "RUN STRONG" (Note: hasn't been updated since child number two and start of real-estate career). And just today, following the direction of coach Phil, I found the phrase being used by Jon-Erik Kawamoto, on his blog This is a great blog related to strength training for the endurance athlete. If you haven't already looked at it be sure to.

So how does this connect to me? Even though my Dad used to say the world does not revolve around me, it ultimately does here in my little blog world.
Anyway, back to me. Since about September of last year I have had more tiny ailments than I care to count.... foot cramping, tightness in my big toe, crazy tight right hamstring and right gluteal muscles. And then a strained calf (soleus), a rolled ankle, and finally a partial tear of that right hamstring. Okay, the list isn't that long, but it has been none stop. I've sought help from the best in Lesley White, my R.M.T., and I continually stretch. What has suddenly plagued me? These past few days, within various conversations and activities, it hit me...

My schedule has become less hectic lately and I've recently made time for Yofit, a local recreation center cross breed of yoga and pilates. Between that and a home routine of yoga, things have started to fall back into place, literally. The yoga has done exactly what Jon Erik Kawamoto discussed. It has helped me to build strength and stability...and flexibility, through a variety of movements and positions. "Running alone", he writes, "will not help you to build strength", and I totally agree. Runners must find some balance between strength conditioning/maintenance for general core stability and to improve their running, if not just for overuse injury prevention.

I know what you're thinking, "So how can this type of conditioning help a runner? I don't want to be all muscley and bulky. It'll make me heavy and slow". The answer is, you won't get bulky. You're a runner. A properly designed program is only meant to help you build lean muscle mass. Less weight more reps and loads of variety. The strong runner is able to keep his form longer and allow the appropriate muscles to do their jobs longer. Everyone knows someone who has had IT issues. This injury is occasionally related to skeletal issues, and almost always related to a weak gluteus medius.

Folks like Gary Robbins, Tamsin Anstey, and Nicola Gildersleeve have each paid their dues in the gym and in doing cross fit classes. These people are a true testament to the powers of strength conditioning for the runner. For me, I won't be doing any curls, squats, military presses, or bosu lunges, but I'll carry on with my yoga/pilates and hope to maintain my already massive biceps and bring back my alignment. Especially now as my running schedule gets more intense and my summer plans get closer.

The bottom line is that a runner who wants more of him or herself cannot just run. There must be some balance to prevent injury and fatigue, and to maintain form.

Ironically, I found the following article in Impact Magazine the day after this was first posted . Check it out, Run Stronger, Run Longer. And there are others with it, one by Jon-Eric Kawamoto and another by Peter Twist.


  1. Strength training is great when you can be in and out of the gym in an hour. JK certainly has it wired

  2. The time involved is totally the issue for most people, including me. Some genius should come up with a Curves for Runners type deal, where you can bang out a 20-30 minute work out and be on your way to the pub or god forbid, work.

  3. The one problem I have with what you said is the low weight high reps....

    To build strength, you need to lift strong...1-5 reps. However, this type of lifting should only be done at a specific time during the training cycle before the power phase and maintenance phase. I think I have missed the boat on it this year but am looking to truly incorporate it into the plan next year in the off season (I'll make one). I know I need it as I am battling a right hamstring issue right now!