Strength Training for Dummies, no offense. :)

My coach, Becca, sent our marathon training team another email this week.  This time, her lesson focuses on strength training.  Below, is a picture of me and my guns, as I have hung out with weights since I was a senior in high school using my dad’s Bowflex to shape me like a rock.

DANG!  I’m just waiting for some Batman Comics noises to start playing.  For those of you who don’t  understand every pop culture reference I make in the blog, the noises would sound like this: BAM, POW, SNAP!
Ok, so back to the importance of strength training during your training program.  Take it away Becca!
Strength Training:
Strength Training is one of the three foundations of fitness. The other two are aerobic conditioning and and flexibility (why a lot of runners partake in yoga). Runners lift weights as they believe it will make their muscles stronger and more powerful and improve their running. 

Lifting weights has a number of other benefits:
-Helps develop overall body strength
-Helps to strengthen back and stomach muscles and helps to reduce back problems.
-Helps to correct imbalances and postural changes and helps to achieve symmetrical right and left sided strength and helps to balance against/antagonist muscles (push/pull) muscles

Most marathon coaches endorse weight work, it is entirely up to you runners (what you have time for, whether or not you have access to a gym, pending how tired you are etc). However, it is not always an essential element to a marathon training program.  Strength training can and should occur during the off season.  

Marathon specific work may also help, meaning hill work, stairs workouts, etc. 

Just remember, WE ARE ENDURANCE RUNNERS, NOT WEIGHT LIFTERS. You are looking to lift a small amount of weights, several times, we are NOT trying to get big, rather just tighten our muscles. It takes months for our bodies to adapt to lifting. It is easy to be injured by attempting to lift more than our bodies are ready to lift. It’s common for muscles to strengthen faster than supporting tendons and ligaments. Again, start out small, very small. Ask for help at the gym, tell them you are training for a marathon or half marathon.

Lifting tips:
-Comfortable clothes make for an easier workout
-Shoes should be supportive (actual running sneakers are best, where they support your ankles)
-Warm up and stretch to prevent injury
– Develop a routine and go from exercise to exercise wasting little time, but have enough rest between sets so that your heart rate covers quickly
– Try to be efficient, allowing your workout to take about an hour
-Work large muscle groups before small ones
-Work first the muscle groups that are most important to you (our quads, thighs and arms) that way if you are interrupted or have limited time, you’ll be sure to have done the most important exercises
-Increase weights gradually and steadily and keep reps around 15
-BREATHE- Breath OUT during POWER/LIFTING breathe IN during the relaxation phase
How often:
Runners should lift two times a week, in the case you can pick up a third day go for it!
Repetitions and Sets:
Repetitions are the number of times in a row an exercise is performed. Groups of reps are called a set. For example, doing an exercise 15 times, resting, then going again is 2 sets of 15 reps.
How much should you lift?
Well, it is trial and error, finding an amount that can be lifted 15 times. As training progresses, weight can be added when the number of reps performed exceeds a nominal number, for examples 20 reps.
Circuit Training
Circuit Training is weight training in which the rest intervals between different exercises are short. This is a combination of weight training with cardio benefit and heart rates int he aerobic training range. If you are using this system, there is no need to mix in cardio workout in the weight room and reduce the focus on strength training. More on this tomorrow.
Exercise
There are hundreds of exercises you can use. Many  can be done at a gym, or a “home gym. You will need a couple of barbells, 150 lbs in weights and a bench with leg-extensions and leg-curl bars. Push-ups and sit-ups require no equipment and are also super useful. Again, ask for help at the gym, usually they are so friendly and happy to help!
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