by: Brandon Richey
For You Runners…Got Strength?
So I posed the question on Facebook as to what kind of posts folks would be interested in seeing me do here on this next blogisode. Well, I got some great feedback ranging from squatting strength, soft tissue work/manual therapy, to running, and strength building to improve one’s fitness level.
Well, in short I kind of decided to combine a bit of all of these things into this post to address how you can improve your running strength and just your good ole strength in general. Note: I am NOT a runner. Ok, let me clarify that statement. I am not a distance runner, however I have always been a pretty good sprinter. Now you’ve got to tune in to see how I’m going to make sense of all of this, right? 🙂
Running Strength Or Lack Thereof?
When looking at any recreational, athletic, or physical type of program there is one variable that must be present in all to make it work well! My friend that variable is the development of strength! That’s right, a foundation of strength is essential to successfully being able to master any task you can think of and if you happen to be a runner then running is no different.
If I have one pet peeve it is when I see those distance runners on the sidewalks while driving down the road struggling to pull a hill because they are built like a toothpick. Sometimes when I’m driving by one of them on the sidewalk that runs parallel to the road I often wonder if the wind from my vehicle is going to blow them over into the ditch below because they look so weak and fragile. The sad thing is that they are weak and I do try to let the wind from my truck blow them over into the ditch as a regular Saturday afternoon hobby. Of course that was a joke! 😉
The truth is that excessive aerobic cardio minus a reasonable amount of rest and a serious injection of strength building will equal out to disaster. With too much mileage and a lack of strength the body will start to develop a battery of problems. Some of these will include your joints taking a pounding, loss of lean muscle mass, and some hormonal disruptions particularly in women. The key to smart training is balance and I’ll try to clarify that is much as possible in today’s post.
First of all, when I talk about running I’m not demonizing the activity. I’m merely stating that an excess of any one thing without smart planning and a smart approach to training can at times be counterproductive if the participant is not smart about it. Before I continue I want to look at a common approach with the mindset that a lot of folks take when it comes to them starting out a fitness program.
The Runner’s Trap…
So a certain individual (male or female) starts out a fitness program by taking a jog around the block every other day. As this begins they may start to get into the mindset of trying to make it a certain distance. Once they have covered this distance and begin to succeed in this accomplishment then they may lengthen the distance. From there they may go from doing it every other day to doing it everyday, or most everyday of the week. Now I’m not discouraging their efforts. I’m applauding this, but I am pointing out how this trend will continue to snowball to a point to where many folks can tend to neglect the strength aspect of their training by allowing the running to consume all of their “fitness time.”
This is what I like to refer to as the runner’s trap. Slowly but surely people do succeed in starting a fitness program, but for some reason I tend to see runners that allow the “running” to consume all of their time. This can potentially lead to other problems.
First of all, a good strength training program will help to reduce the risk of injury, especially when combined with good stretching and soft tissue work to alleviate muscle soreness and speed up recovery. In any strength and conditioning program stress and movement can cause soft tissues to become inflamed. When tissues become stressed you can develop trigger points throughout the body which inhibit mobility and even make life miserable. When I say miserable I mean more miserable than that fruit cake you see floating around from household to household during the holidays that everyone expects you to try and eat. Yep, it that miserable!
To eliminate these trigger points you need to use the hell out of that foam roller and even invest in a good old fashioned lacrosse ball to work out some of the finer areas (in the upper body too). Here’s me demonstrating some foam rolling with the lower limbs. This is particularly good for the thighs, hips, and for massaging the IT band area which can tend to be problematic in a lot of runners and athletes in general.
As a runner from here you need to address your running strength development. A key component that would’ve been helpful for the toothpick man I described earlier would’ve been the development of some dynamic hip strength, sound core stability, and the development of a solid posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, back, calves, etc.). There is no better way to do this than by hammering out some deadlifts or my personal favorites some kettlebell swings and snatches. Not only do you get the solid core stability, posterior development, and hip strength from these 2 drills, but you also will develop a significant level of anaerobic/ aerobic work capacity to further fuel the cardiovascular aspect of your running performance.
There you go! The goblet squat is a tremendous drill to teach a proper squat pattern. You can easily implement this one by incorporating it into your running strength program after your stretching and foam rolling. Surprisingly if you try this before you foam roll and compare your range of motion of doing the goblet squat after foam rolling you will be shocked at the difference!
Now going back to the runner’s trap that I mentioned earlier you need to know that if you offset and balance your fitness program by incorporating a sound strength and conditioning program you won’t have to worry about running as much. This way you can develop the fitness you most desire while saving time, your joints, and continuing to shatter your PR’s (personal records) in running time. Remember that running too extensively (especially when neglecting the strength component) is basically causing a catabolic state in your body and this doing nothing more than breaking you down and slowing your metabolism as well!
Some More Food For Thought…
Female athletes tend to have a higher occurrence of ACL tears than male athletes and the number grows year after year. Now if you are just solely a female runner you may not have to have as much concern than if you also happen to be a runner that crosses over and competes in other sports such as soccer or basketball. Now having said that you should still pay attention to this. There are several possible reasons for this occurrence which can range from anatomical differences, knee alignment, joint laxity (lack of strength), and quad to hamstring strength imbalance.
Now assuming the last 2 variables could play a part in it I want to look at a strength solution to help you to avoid this if you happen to be a female athlete. Guys this is just as important to you too.
Now over the years I’ve noticed that female athletes are overwhelmingly quad dependent. In other words they plant their foot and fire from the thigh instead of a more balanced action which is derived from the development of a strong posterior chain. This is where the kettlebell swings and snatches can be extremely valuable. In addition to this a great drill to further develop hip and knee stability while hammering home the development of that posterior is the single leg deadlift. Check out my demonstration of that right here:
Yep, you definitely need to cue this one up in your arsenal of strength! The point is that running strength is something that should be an absolute in your fitness goals if you happen to be a runner. Don’t neglect this because I’m just going to drive by in my truck and try to blow you over into a ditch if you don’t have the strength to hold yourself up on the road! 😉
This should be a good start. There are many other issues that I can address, but for today’s post I’m out of time. If you are looking for other creative and effective ways to improve your running strength and performance then you need to make sure to check out my Kettlebell Power And Speed Formula ebook! It has over 19 minutes of instructional video and 30 workouts to get your started on a different kind of running strength!
Also if you enjoyed today’s post then please don’t hesitate to drop a comment or question in the box below this article. Remember that most anyone can train hard, but only the best train smart my friend.
For You Runners…Got Strength?