Thursday, April 24, 2014

Random thoughts on strength training

More than a few studies have documented the physical effects of aging on the human body. Most of them boil it down to a couple of facts; muscular strength diminishes with age and reaction time slows. In runners, the effect are more apparent on running hilly courses and through the loss of leg turnover.

Ironically, the aerobic endurance doesn’t drop nearly as fast which explains why longer races tend to have lots of older runners. Just check out your next Ultra race. There is a good chance the majority of the field will be at least 35 years or older. This also explains why many Masters’ runners head for the flat land road races. These races reduce or eliminate hills as a factor in the overall performance of the race.

As many of you know, I have been working hard to regain some leg turnover through lots of strides, Tabata, and short intense interval sessions.

You might also be interested to know that I also spend time in the weight room 2 to 3 days per week. My routine is about 35 to 40 minutes and involves both upper and lower body weights. I focus a lot on the machines, but from time to time I go across the aisle to do similar routines on the free weights. In another post, I will share my reason for switching things up. But during these sessions, my primary focus is on gluts, hamstrings, quads, and calves, but I do include a number of upper body exercises that work the arms, shoulders, and back.

 My philosophy when it comes to weights has always been about endurance over raw power. I prefer to lift a medium level weight 15 to 30 times over multiple sets than to lift a heavier weight 5 times in just one set. Running is about doing a repetitive action over a long period of time. While my upper body does not directly do any “running”, it does indirectly support my ability to run. Coming to the end of a race or a hard workout, my legs are tired. Because the action of arms and legs are interlinked for us to run, pumping the arms harder can drive the legs forward. The difference can be seen on the finish line clock. There is a good chance, it will a 19:58 instead of 20:01for a 5k.  

Don’t go way thinking that you have to have access to a weight room to do this. One of my favorite Rocky movies to watch is the one where Rocky is living in a cabin in the snowy country side – cutting wood, moving snow, etc. His boxing opponent has the state of the art equipment for training. Yet, Rocky beats him when they meet. Yeah, I know this is just a movie but the idea is still valid. Use the items around you or run some place that has outdoor cross fit equipment. Pull ups and chin ups will work a lot of same upper body muscles. Don’t forget about the old standby exercise called the “pushup”. It hits a lot the major upper body muscle groups.


Sharing one thought at a time,

The Cool Down Runner


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