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Running and Weight-Training



Don and I are training for the Western States 100 Mile Run this year! It’s coming up fast, and being so busy all the time, it’s hard to fit in those every day runs. So, we try to be pretty specific about our training. One thing that seems to make a big difference is going to the gym and doing workouts with weights. On the weight machines. Yeah, I know. I’m a runner, I want to run. The first time it’s so hard to convince myself to go there. There’s nothing to look forward to – no sweet smell of trail dirt, no happy birds, no purple and yellow wildflowers, just sweaty machines and bad music. But after a few times there’s a feeling of strength. And, when I do get out on the trails, finally, I can get up a hill without stopping for breath and without the horrible dead feeling in my legs. Insead of being a runner who says, “I suck at hills,” I feel respectably strong and able to push, even run, up those things.

The idea, of course, for a runner is not to bulk up or be top heavy, but to increase strength and tone of muscles, which also helps to burn some more fat. (Another goal is to get down to race weight, but that seems to be tough, too.) The self-designed program is a bit of everything, focusing on weak spots. Weight machines can help balance out muscles that get over used. For example, my quads get stronger from running, but the hamstrings are weak, so I always do hamstring curls. The upper body gets totally neglected, so that’s where a lot of focus is. Bicep curls? Ugh. A strong arm swing can help a lot with running. And core strength (abs and lower back) is important for holding your body upright.

Last year I didn’t do any weight training when I was training for the Headlands 100 Miler. I think my fastest time on one of our test trails was 1:27. That’s from the bottom of Rhus Ridge to the top of Black Mountain. I guess it’s not far – less than 4.5 miles, but it’s all uphill. Last week I ran it in 1:19! And I’m not done training yet.

So, the next strategic focus is to do a little more work on lateral strength, because guess what? The Western States course is full of snow right now. Hopefully it will melt quickly, but balance is going to be very important.

And no fear. Grrrrr.


4 Responses to “Running and Weight-Training”

  1. Brandon Says:

    Good luck! Nice results so far with the strength training.

    I’m hoping to get into 2011 so I will be watching your blog!


  2. Jessica Says:

    Hey there!
    I wanted to recommend a couple of things that might be helpful in developing hamstring strength that can in turn help prevent injury during training. I’ve found that deadlifts are the best movement for hamstrings for several reasons. First, you want your strength training exercises to complement your activities as closely as possible- it’s very rare that our hamstrings do any work alone and we are rarely ever seated and supported while using our hamstrings. During a running stride, our hamstrings work with our glutes and lower back muscles to flex the knee and extend the hip. A hamstring curl only permits flexion at the knee since it locks the upper thigh into place, while a deadlift involves hamstrings, glutes and the lower back (it shouldn’t hurt your back if you’re doing it properly). Second, when you bend (or ‘flex’) the knee, your popliteus muscle deep inside your knee contracts, causing your tibia to rotate medially, followed by flexion of the knee. The popliteus is referred to as the ‘key that unlocks the knee’ for this reason and using a hamstring curl machine prevents that crucial amount of rotation from occurring. Finally, because your training movements should approximate your activities, it’s better to do your strength exercises standing instead of seated. When you’re standing you are engaging your core muscles, improving your balance and developing strength all at the same time. Since your whole body works while running, your strength regimen should too. Hamstring curls are ok for some people, but runners require functional exercise and hamstring curls miss the mark.

  3. Ron Wolf Says:

    wow, that’s quite an improvement. i’m skeptical that it has much to do with weight training, but who knows? hill climbing for more than 20 seconds is much more about MaxO2 than it is about strength – assuming that the basic strength to carry yourself is there….

    on the other hand, i believe that core strength is a BIG part of running well. i stopped going to the gym about 2 years ago and now do my strength workout with almost 100% body weight focusing on core. i feel a lot better, more balanced, think my running is better too – like more adaptable, smoother, comfortable. pushups, pullups, planks, crunches, leg raises, various balances, etc… and since i can do all of this at home (or at the park) i get to listen to my tunes, have no transport time, and so do the workout about 5 times a week.

  4. Clynton Taylor Says:

    Thanks for the post and information on the importance of weight training. I have recently started a crossfit class at CrossFit San Mateo. It’s fantastic strength building and a lot of fun. Even my upper body strength should make a difference in my running (at least I hope). All the best in the training! I have the feeling it’s going to be one of the most incredible WS ever.