Human movement before human performance before athletic performance. I know this sounds like gibberish but think about it: there are way too many people, athletes, and (even scarier) coaches who want to skip parts of this progression. Most people realize that we need to prioritize human performance before athletic performance, but it’s disturbing the number of individuals who skip the steps regarding basic movement of the human body even in the simplest forms, such as running. We’re so anxious to utilize athletic activities to get in better shape that we skip getting in shape to even PERFORM those athletic activities. The most common example I see of this is running.
Millions of people run in constant pain, simply because they skipped the necessary steps to be in running shape, and/or they chose or were coached to progress too quickly without allowing their body time to adapt to this new stimulus. I frequently ask runners what they do for leg strength work, and their response is: “I run.”
Running isn’t leg strengthening. Now before everyone loses their minds here, there IS a strength benefit that comes from running, but it’s not going to be the emphasis of your gains from running.
It’s just to say that there is a massive benefit to runners from very specific strength training. There’s even a benefit from just the most basic general strength training as well. As you progress with your strength training, it will become increasingly important to get more specific with the strength training you perform. Strength training doesn’t need to mimic running, but it needs to target the specific muscular activations that are required to improve efficiency and power output while running.
By starting off slowly running short distances and progressing gradually, and incorporating strength training into your plan, you can minimize your risks of injury due to running. What distance should you first start off to run? Well, that depends on your current overall physical condition and running history. For this article, let’s talk about the beginner. I would suggest starting at less than one mile at a slow to moderate pace. Now, onto your strength training. Let’s start that with body weight exercises that incorporate the entire body. Squats, kneeling walk, hip bridges, planks, push-ups, pull-ups, and heel raises are all great starting exercises. Since we’re training to help with long distance running, it makes sense to start your strength training with longer repetition sets. I suggest starting with one set of 20 of each of those exercises.
As your strength increases, it’s important to progress appropriately. Several variables can be adjusted in order to continue progressing. Speed, tempo, resistance, and base of support will be the primary adjustments that we’ll be making in a running program. By changing any of these variables, you change the way your body needs to adapt to the exercise you’re performing. There’s not much benefit from changing more than one of these at a time, and as long as you don’t try to progress too quickly, you can minimize your likelihood of getting injured, which will just further delay your progress. Consult with a local professional if you have questions about progression or just don’t know where to start with the process. Qualified personal trainers or running coaches can be an incredible resource for you to maximize your results. Just be sure to interview several and ask them questions about their education on this subject and how they will specifically address your needs.
Becoming a proficient runner doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated, but can quickly become so following injuries. Be safe and have fun while getting in your best shape.