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January 02, 2012

Can the Gym Help My Running?

Written by Dena Evans

pilates_cropped

Can the Gym Help My Running?

Personal Best - January 2012


January is a time to set new goals.  Runners of every age and experience level often seek ways to improve performance and results outside of the time spent out on the roads.  As coaches, we are often asked if weight training, yoga, cross training, or other gym-based activities will assist an athlete toward their running goals.  This month in Personal Best, we consider the question with a few guidelines and tips.

Why not just run?
Certainly, the best way to improve your running is to run; however, moving your body in different ways can address various weaknesses that have built over time due to the repetitive nature of running. In addition, ancillary activities can help put the finishing touches on the fitness gains from a workout regimen begun in search of weight loss or aesthetic goals.

It all starts with the core....
If time and resources are limited, there are a number if ways to help your running with some simple core work.  Exercising the core helps strengthen the area from your chest to your hip flexors, allowing you to maintain good form and posture when at the end of a race. Your core stabilizes you not only when you're tired, but helps center your running form even when fresh, assisting in the achievement of good posture and range of motion in your stride.  We discussed the importance of one of these muscles, the transverse abdominis, in a previous column, along with a few easy and simple exercises to address it when you can steal a few minutes on the carpet after coming in from a run.

If you enjoy the social nature of classes they are a great way to stay on track with your core strength objectives.  In addition to stabilization, a strong core, and good spinal / pelvic alignment can help you maximize efforts spent on strengthening other muscle groups, another reason why it is a good place to start.

Flexibility is your friend

Activities like Yoga and Pilates are also tools used by many runners to help increase flexibility and strength when muscles are extended.  Greater flexibility can be a huge asset in the effort to stave off injuries, so if that is a big goal for 2012, these might be good options for activities to incorporate into your regimen.

Boost your metabolism and body composition
Along with general weight training, some of the latest trends in fitness include CrossFit, P90X, TRX, and a myriad of home and gym-based programs to challenge your body in a multi-directional, muscle-strengthening fashion.  Some of these also include a cardio component, and many of them build upper body fitness, demand lateral movement, and require more ballistic activities than a normal running routine.

These high intensity activities can complement your training by adding a new dimension of athleticism increasing your power.  However, anything along these lines should be carefully taken into account – some body composition changes are helpful, some are not, and anything that compromises your running by creating too much and untimely fatigue, may be more detrimental than it is worth.   Any of these activities are best safely incorporated with the help of a fitness professional at your local facility.


Ease strain on joints and muscles

Every runner occasionally requires a time of recovery or the need for a day or two of cross training.  Others enjoy incorporating spin classes, swimming, elliptical, or even a fitness activity such as Zumba into their regular routine.  If you are looking for a way to integrate in an additional day of cardiovascular exercise, but are concerned about the strain on joints and ligaments, one of these low or non-impact activities could be just the ticket to keep you headed in the right direction.

 

In short….the bottom line

Cross training and multi-dimensional movements can be beneficial for distance runners.  Consider some of the disciplines below to have an even better and more balanced 2012.

Core strength exercised, Yoga, Pilates:  At home, with an instructor, or in a class setting.  These primarily address needs for flexibility, core strength, and spinal / pelvic alignment.  Low / no impact, more meditative. 

Want to try a home-based core workout?  Check out Focus-N-Fly’s favorite whole body workout here:  

Weight / circuit training, CrossFit, P90X, TRX, etc:  At home, with an instructor, or in a class setting.  These require more dynamic, powerful movements, perhaps with greater intensity and resultant muscle development.  For those who enjoy an up-tempo addition to their week, and who are looking to add more power / speed.

Indoor cycling, elliptical, Zumba, swimming: At home, with an instructor, or in a class setting.  These activities can increase cardiovascular training time with minimal strain on joints and bones.  Could be used for variety or as a prelude to including an additional day of running into the schedule.


Focus-N-Fly Plyomterics and Warm-up Drills:  These can be run on a track, road, sidewalk, path or grass.  Even if you do not have time for an additional training session or two, these can be efficiently integrated into your already scheduled running to help strengthen your core and provide greater range of motion. 

Questions about the above?  Email us at info@focusnfly or tweet us a question to @focusnfly.

 

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