Today I am going for my first “long” run. I say long in quotations because where it used to mean 14+ miles now it only means around 7, but that is a step in the right direction right!?
We aren’t sure whether it is going to be outside on our favorite trail or inside. It will depend how long the rain/snow decides to hold off on us.
I have to say I have noticed a HUGE improvement in my leg recovery this week. I am attributing this to two simple reasons:
I have been working like crazy on really improving my form. After lots of research, having my husband watch me when I run, and focusing on it like crazy for the past 2 weeks I am already seeing improvement. It is so obvious to me now looking back and seeing all the mistakes I was making previously.
When I say “strength training” I don’t mean that I am going crazy in the weight room every day of the week. It means I am making a conscious effort 2-3 days a week to get at least 20 minutes of some for of strength training in.
A couple months ago I was given the chance to read Quick Strength for Runners by Jeff Horowitz. I knew that I needed to look for a plan that wouldn’t take a crazy amount of time (because I get lazy) but that would focus on the areas that runners need to focus on.
The book is divided into 6 sections:
- Strength Training for Runners: A Primer
- Getting Started
- The Exercises
- The Workouts
- Taking it On The Road
- A Lifetime of Fitness
The first chapter describes the basic art of running. As it states:
“…the act of running is enormously complicated. It requires the balancing of the entire body as it rotates and hurtles through space, the flexion and extension of a long list of joints, and the timed contraction and release of muscles from head to toe.”
It goes on to explain just how many muscles within the body running uses. It is complicated and simple all at the same time. A weakness in one specific area can go on to cause extreme issues in other areas and even lead to injury. As uses a good example in the book to explain this:
“To sum up: poor hip strength leads to outwards collapse of the hip on foot strike, which can lead to strain and tightness in the IT band and pain in the outer part of the knee and lower back.”
I think every runner at some point has dealt with that pesky IT band tightness. Throughout this chapter he goes on to explain just why strength training is so important to runners as well as common myths he has heard in regards to strength training.
A few of my favorite myths he goes on to debunk:
- Strength training will make me bigger, and I do not want to be bigger.
- Strength training will make me less flexible
- I will have to go to a gym and use barbells and machines
- Strength training is not for women
The second chapter touches more in depth on specific strength training for runners. One of my favorite lines that he uses in his chapter is:
“Our aim here is not just to work the muscle but also to work the movement.”
As runners we aren’t strength training to work on our outward appearance, but instead we are strength training to increase our performance. To become a stronger, better and faster runner.
The main focuses in Jeff’s strength training for runners is:
- Core Strength
- Run Specific Strength
Of course, just like any book on strength training this book also discussed the main muscles groups and how they work and function together. It also discusses what muscles are used during the different phases and parts of the running movement.
I have to say that he does an excellent job of really getting you to understand why and how you use different muscles while running. As runners we look at strength training differently, and Jeff does an excellent job of showing this through the eyes of a runner.
Chapter 3 begins showing you each of the individual moves that he will incorporate into the 8 week plan. It is very intricate and each move is diagramed with pictures to show you how to do the exercise properly, what equipment you will need and what muscles groups it targets.
The workout plan itself is shown in Chapter 4. The total workout plan goes for 8 weeks and each week has a different purpose and goal.
- Week 1 – Introductory Week
- Week 2 – Improve Balance
- Week 3 – Building Muscle Endurance
- Week 4 – Difficulty Increase
- Week 6 – Introducing More Advanced Forms
- Week 7 – Increase Volume and Diversity
- Week 8 – Changing the Stimulus
The workouts are challenging but doable. They are geared to be completed in 30 minutes or less. This is great for those who are on a busy schedule. I also love how the workouts are always changing – your body is always left guessing.
In my opinion, aside from the exercises and plan themselves Chapter 5 is one of my favorites. Jeff discusses in this chapter how to incorporate his workouts right in your own home. He goes on to even discuss how to keep his workouts going even when your life takes you other places. He gives you some sample exercises you can do no matter where you are.
It leaves you with no room to make excuses.
Finally, the last chapter discusses how to continue your strength training once the 8 week program is over. He discusses how to tweak the knowledge you have already gained throughout the book and continue to work them into your routine.
We all know that strength training is important. I have always said that I should do more strength training, but it wasn’t until I started trying this book that I really realized how much it can help me. I started this book before I was back to running, and I believe without a shadow of a doubt that it has had a big impact on my running now. I am stronger, recover easier and have less soreness overall.
If you are looking for a manageable and runner specific strength training plan – I highly recommend Quick Strength for Runners by Jeff Horowitz.
We all want to be great runners, but you can’t be a great runner if you are injured. This book will help to you to avoid the injury plague and become a stronger, faster and better runner.
Do you strength train regularly?
Have you ever followed a specific strength training plan?