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Run Faster & Stronger Through Strength Training

By: Angela Joy

Most runners participate in only one form of exercise which is, you guessed it – running.

Doing the same form of exercise each day is not effective in properly strengthening the body’s muscles, improving performance and preventing injuries.

As a result, it is suggested that runners participate in a consistent resistance training program to properly strengthen their muscles and evenly distribute their weight.

Strength training will not only assist in preventing injuries, it will also increase speed, endurance, runner efficiency, balance and flexibility.

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Why Strength Train?

As a runner it is easy to fall into the pattern of running the same route, for the same distance, for the same amount of time, day in and day out.

When we participate in the same consistent form of exercise our muscles are not being challenged.

Over time the body will acclimate to these activities and will not build strength or endurance.

Chief Science Officer at the American Council on Exercise Cedric Bryant reported that variety in an exercise routine allows the body to be physically challenged.

He concluded in an ACE article titled, “Why is it Important to Vary My Exercise Routine,” many of the body’s physiological systems, such as the muscular system, will adapt to an exercise program within approximately six to eight weeks.

He further stated that continuing to participate in the same form of exercise activities will cause the body to “reach a plateau because your body has adapted to the repetitive training stimulus.”

In an effort to prevent reaching a plateau it is not only beneficial to alternate between different types of workouts, but to also incorporate different styles, durations, equipment and intensities.

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The Benefits of Strength Training

The muscles used during running must be properly strengthened, stretched and cared for in order to sustain your running ventures, reach performance goals and increase your running abilities.

Strength training will create strong muscles, prevent injury, improve speed and confidence, improve running efficiency, while also allowing the body to more effectively utilize each breath.

A Runner’s World Magazine article titled, “Strength Training for Runners” stated that if you want to “perform at your full potential” you need to take a comprehensive approach to your training – which includes flexibility, mobility, balance and strength training.

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How to Strength Train

Strength training is defined by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) as “a form of physical activity that is designed to improve muscular fitness by exercising a muscle or a muscle group against external resistance.”

Strength training activities can be accomplished through traditional free weights, body weight exercises, resistance machine exercises, elastic tubing, medicine balls, and even household items such as cans and jugs, the ACSM stated in a 2013 report on resistance training.

The ACSM recommends that a strength training program is performed a minimum of two non-consecutive days each week.

According to the ACSM, one standard strength training session should be made up of 8 to 10 different exercises that target all of the major muscle groups, and each exercise should be completed for a total of 8 to 12 repetitions.

Strength training workouts general target the chest, back, shoulders, bicep, triceps, abdomen, quadriceps and hamstring muscles.

Runners however tend to focus on specific areas of their body when participating in a strength training program.

According to Runner’s World Magazine runners should focus on strengthening three areas; the core, upper body and lower body.

Core muscles strengthen the abdominals and back. These muscles are the foundation of all movement. Therefore, a strong core create and support strong legs and arms.

Lower body muscles include the soleus, gastrocnemius, tibialis anterior, quadriceps and hamstring muscles.

These muscles create leg strength to withstand fast, long and difficult running ventures.

Upper body muscles include the shoulders, chest, biceps, and triceps. These muscles increase speed during running as the runner pumps their arms and proportionately balances their bodies.

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Strength Training Exercises

A few examples of resistance training exercises to improve running ability, strength and performance include;

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Plank
  • Clamshells
  • Bent-over row
  • Side plank
  • Lower body Russian twists
  • Scorpion
  • Back extension
  • Hip bridge
  • Jack knife
  • Alternating shoulder press
  • Deadlift

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Accomplished American marathon runner Amby Burfoot has inspired millions of runner with his quote, “You have to want it, you have to plan for it, you have to fit it into a busy day, you have to be mentally tough, you have to use others to help you. The hard part isn’t getting your body in shape. The hard part is getting your mind in shape.”

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Antioxidants and Disease Prevention

I have a very special article to share with you today! University professor and registered dietitian Chuck Balzer has graciously offered to share his incredibly article entitled, “Antioxidants and Disease Prevention.” This well-written article is both educational and insightful.
I hope you enjoy it, and learn the importance of antioxidants
and phytochemicals within a healthy diet.

By: Chuck Balzer, MS RDN CNS

Regardless of what media outlet one receives their health and medical information from it is likely that the term “antioxidant” is a familiar one. Since the 1980’s, antioxidants have been a star topic that is ubiquitous in the field of nutrition and disease.

What are these compounds and how do they function in the body?

Oxygen is obviously essential for life on earth, including the survival of humans. However, the utilization of oxygen does come with a price. During the process of oxygen usage, unstable molecules known as free radicals are created at the cellular level. These free radicals act in a “chain reaction” fashion, stealing stable electron partners from other paired electrons; resulting in instability. The damage occurring as a result of these compounds has been associated with well-over 100 diseases; including heart disease, cancer, and even the aging process. It is estimated that each of the trillions of cells in the human body take 10,000 so called oxidative “hits” per second! If it were not for our ability to protect against this, our bodies would degenerate at an extreme rate. Antioxidant nutrients play a key role in our ability to protect against this oxidative damage.

Antioxidants

The most popular nutrients in this category are vitamins E & C, along with beta-carotene; however, these are far from alone. Plants produce compounds known as phytochemicals (phyto means “plant” in Greek) that are also referred to also phytonutrients; since so many have been found to have health promoting properties. There are now estimated to be as many as 4,000 phytochemicals in nature. Scientists researching these components point to the protective properties for the plant’s own survival against excess exposure to oxygen and sunlight. When humans ingest these foods – they derive unique – but comparable benefits.

The human body also produces a multitude of antioxidant compounds, including glutathione, lipoic acid, and coenzyme Q10. However, research findings continue to show that this production is insufficient for optimal defense against oxidative damage, thus making the receiving of adequate amounts via the diet all the more imperative for good health.

Note: Research has also shown that aerobic exercise can boost the endogenous production of antioxidants by the body.

Chocolate, coffee, wine… as “health foods”? 

Individuals may feel frustrated and perplexed when foods that were historically deemed unhealthy continuously receive positive study findings regarding disease prevention. Perhaps the proper response to this is not to completely change perspective and respect for the science of nutrition, but to realize that all of these foods are of plant origin and thus contain the aforementioned phytochemical / antioxidant components!

It is clear that a plant based diet, appropriate physical activity, and a well-researched, adequately dosed multi-nutrient formula containing a broad-spectrum of antioxidant compounds can be an ideal foundation for wellness and disease prevention

I would like to thank Professor Balzer for sharing such an insightful and interesting article
with myself and all of you! 

Please share your feedback and gratitude below — we would LOVE to hear from you. 

How Cross-Training Can Improve Runner Performance

By: Angela Ciroalo

In this article I will share my experience with over-training and how it led me to recognize the importance of cross training for runners and athletes alike.

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How Over-Training Led Me to Love Cross-Training

 

In the beginning of the summer I, like many other runners, selected my next big race. I chose a fall marathon to motivate me to train throughout the summer.

I excitedly marked the date of the race down on my calendar and counted the amount of weeks I had to train. I studied the course. I read the race reviews. I even purchased new shoes and shoe-inserts to ensure injury prevention.

Since my last marathon in November I continued a frequent running schedule. I ran one high mileage run, one speed workout, and one interval workout, per week.  I felt great and fully prepared to begin training for my next marathon, or so I thought.

I was nearly finished with my first week of training when I ran into an unexpected road block. I turned the corner to finish the last straight-away of my final run for the week when pain shot down my iliotibial band muscle and down into my knee. I ran a few more steps and the pain did not dismiss, therefore I decided it was best for me to walk.

I felt defeated. I wondered what I did wrong and whether or not this would prevent me from competing in my next marathon.

Without jumping to conclusion, I decided to take it easy for the next few days. The following day I attended a Pilates class.

The day after, I ran on an elliptical.

The third day I went for a bike ride.

By day four I noticed I was sore from the different types of exercises that I had been doing. The soreness led me to a realization; I had been so focused on running to prepare for the next race that I was completely ignoring the muscles in the rest of my body.

My main focus was the amount of miles I ran per week and the time that I was able to complete each run in.

The aches and pains I felt were all overlooked. The monotony of my workouts was overlooked. And, most importantly, the stress my body was feeling from only running – was overlooked.

I, like many runners, was caught up with the ambition to run farther and faster. I had become so engulfed with perfecting my running that the other areas of my bodies were dismissed, leading to an overuse injury.

Why Cross Train?

According to marathon runner and author Matthew Fitzgerald cross training for runners can aid in preventing injuries, create quicker rehabilitation time, create greater aerobic fitness, increases the runner’s power, and improve the runner’s efficiency.

Some runners believe that there is no replacement for running. This approach may work for some, however I found in my experience that it did not work for me.

I experienced a very common overuse injury which I am working to rehabilitate and strengthen through cycling, shorter runs, Cybex® Arc training, strength training and Pilates exercises.

None of these exercises were included in my previous training plan. Since incorporating these exercises I feel stronger, faster, and as if my overall fitness level has improved dramatically.

In addition to incorporating these change in my training schedule I decided to run a half marathon instead of a full marathon this fall.

The cross training activities that I will have been working on are only a few of the many exercises available.

Types of Cross Training

Cross Training

Photo taken from completetrackandfield.com

The website Marathontraining.com lists several types of cross training that specifically benefit runners.

Cross training exercises recommended for runners by marathontraining.com include; cycling, swimming, the Elliptical trainer, Cybex® Arc trainer, deep water running, an Ergometer (rowing) machine, Nordic Track Ski-Simulator machine, Stair-Master, Versa-Climber, walking and strength training.

The American Running Association [ARA] references studies that proved the benefit of cycling, weight training and walking for runners.

The ARA found in a study completed by the University of Utah that interval cycling workouts increase speed without the impact of running sprints.

The ARA found in a study completed by Ron Johnston at the University of New Hampshire in Durham that resistance weight training in the upper and lower parts of the body increased runner’s speed in a 10 kilometer run.

The ARA stated that walking is another beneficial activity for runners. The ARA referenced the Jeff Galloway Marathon Training Program, which educates runners on the benefits of walking and running slowly, and found that walking can improve runner’s endurance.

Another area of cross-training to consider is taking exercise classes. Activities such as Pilates, yoga, Zumba, cardio exercise classes and aqua classes, will each offer different benefits to runners.

Each of the cross training activities listed are beneficial to runner’s seeking to avoid injury and improve fitness level.

We are all different; the cross training exercise that works best for you may not work for me.  Try giving each of the different types a try, allowing yourself to explore what works best for you and your body.

Inspiration ❤ 

This month’s inspirational running quote to get you started towards better health comes from runner, author and columnist John Hanc,”At least 99-percent of running is just showing up, getting out there and putting one foot in front of the other.”

This article was adapted from an article published in Night & Day Magazine

Running motivation

Capable of so much more

❤ Wishing you love, joy and blessings,

Angela Joy

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