Training Articles

Strengthening Can Add Years to Your Running…
And Your Life

The secret to your strength program is that it should complement your running. It should work the muscle groups of the upper body and lower body (yes, we strength-train the legs even though they get a big workout on the run!) that are used in running, but it shouldn't work those muscles too much. Consequently, two or three strength sessions a week is all you need.

You can get an effective workout whether you use dumbbells, resistance-bands, strength-training machines, or your own body weight. If you're crunched for time, you might use dumbbells at home instead of the gym. Or perhaps you like to work out in a class setting and the instructor uses hand weights and resistance bands. Or maybe you want to work one arm or one leg at a time, which means you would be inclined to use hand weights rather than big machines at the gym.

The best advice that I could ever (ever) give you is to get instruction from someone qualified to teach you how to use everything—personal trainers. This is not a life time investment but a good start to a lifetime of effective and injury-free strengthening.

Here are some other reasons you may just love to do it:

  • Strengthens Your Whole Body
    Running makes your legs strong, but what about the rest of your body? Strength training develops total body fitness. You can focus on your upper body, your core and your stability with a good weight training program. This will ultimately help you maintain good form during running. This alone allows for better breathing and a stronger finish at the end of a training run or big race.
  • Prevents Injury
    This is the number one reason that I do strength training. Resistance training builds muscle and bone. With a strong musculoskeletal system, I have much better balance and rarely suffer from overuse injuries like muscle strains, joint issues, and stress fractures that occur when bones and ligaments aren't strong enough to handle the mileage or terrain. I also believe that strength training can help "even out" your body and help compensate for a biomechanical weakness. For instance, I'm bowlegged and have knee and hip issues on occasion. My strength program incorporates a lot of lunges with light weights to build the muscle around my knees to make them secure and resistant to injury.
  • Increases Metabolism
    Muscles need fuel constantly. Consequently, if your body has more muscle tissue it's like a little furnace which needs fuel all the time. Even when you're not running, muscle is very busy burning calories. The more muscle you have, the faster your resting metabolism buzzes and the more calories you burn.
  • Makes You Younger
    Between the ages of 30 and 35, women start to lose muscle mass and bone density, both of which contribute to that old age look and feel---frail, weak and clumsy. However, we can prevent that decline with regular strength training and preserve our muscle strength well into our seventies. I'm shooting for my eighties!
  • Improves Balance, Flexibility, and Stability
    When you practice the precise movements, it teaches your muscles to respond precisely to you mind, so that each movement provides the maximum benefit for each muscles group. When you consciously control the muscle movements, you strengthen weak muscles, elongate tight muscles, and release tension in overworked muscles, thereby promoting uniform development. You're more stable and sound on your feet, so you're less likely to trip and fall.
  • Prevents Osteoporosis
    Although it sounds counterintuitive, weight-bearing activities of any kind build strong bones in your legs and up your spine. With strength training you build up the bones in your arms, shoulders, and chest, which are not affected by running. "The way it works is this," explains Dr. John Schroder, a primary care physician who focuses on women's health issues. "The muscle contraction required to lift weight against the forces of gravity stresses the bone, and where stress occurs, bone cells are deposited." Although many women, including young girls, consider osteoporosis a disease that their grandma gets, and nothing to worry about now, it is a grave health concern today! We should address bone health in our youth because bone density achieves its peak between the ages of 25 and 35. After that, we begin to lose bone tissue at a rate of approximately 1 percent a year until menopause, when loss accelerates to 3 per cent to 5 percent.
  • Improves Mood
    Feeling a little depressed? Studies from Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts indicate that those who have been diagnosed with mild to moderate depression were free of the symptoms, an improvement equivalent to that produced by antidepressants.
  • Promotes Long-lean Muscles
    Do I need to say more? Strength training tones muscles, giving them shape and firmness. It won't produce big, old biceps, but instead will increase muscle mass. The result is a higher muscle-to-fat ratio. This better body composition is also a better indicator of health and fitness than body weight. Just picture this: Muscle works with you when you run; fat just come along for the ride and drags you down. Who wants to carry an extra 5-lb bag of potatoes anyway?
  • Improves Image
    You'll love your body more for its muscle tone, leanness, strength and endurance. You go girl! The strength you gain makes you fitter and healthier, and more powerful. It's such a boost to both your body image and your self-image. And you made it happen!