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.