Here in the northeast it feels like we are reliving the month of October. The temperatures are struggling to reach sixty-five and it has rained every day for a week. It is as if mother nature doesn't want us to bask in the sun, or break out our collection of shorts.
Once this passes however, the skies will be clear and the temperature will be a smooth seventy and above. The air will be crisp, free of the humidity that plagues the summer months in the NE corridor. As the weather changes, so too will people's exercise habits.
There will be less time spent at the local gym, and more time spent putting foot to asphalt. The "clink" of weights will soon be replaced with the subtle "pit-pat" of new running shoes striking the warm road. Like bears leaving caves after a season of hibernation - many people will rise out of their homes, gyms, and work-spaces intent on running.
And run they will.
Sure, there are those serial runners among us. Those folks who will run in four feet of snow, or eighty mile-an-hour gusts just because they can. They'll log more miles in a single run than most of us will in a week, and it is as though they are always coming home with a new medal from another marathon. Then, there are those of you gifted with comfortable weather throughout the entire year. The southwest, parts of Florida, and southern California find temperatures and weather conditions to be rather reasonable no matter what month it is. There is no hibernation to awake from - it's just another Monday to you. The frequency of running for these aforementioned classes of runners is much higher than those who are often bound by the conditions of winter and early spring. The lack of an off-season allows them to stay in running shape year around. It is a bit different for those who base their running patterns off of the seasons, especially in a town like D.C.
Cinco De Mayo 16' looks more like the kind of night Hemingway wrote about as he sipped whiskey in a dusty bar and less like one that is full of tequila and dancing under the stars.
These three tips are meant for the runners just finding their paces and just tying their new laces. Whether you are a total beginner, or you simply didn't want to run in the winter - this is your definitive 3 step guide to ensuring you have a healthy running program that is good for your body, and not destructive.
1. Don't Stop Lifting Weights
The biggest mistake any runner can make is to completely eschew weight lifting in favor of their running program. Oh, how quickly the work of the fall and winter can come undone when you stop developing your body in the gym throughout intelligent resistance training, and instead only deplete with mile-after-mile on the asphalt.
The number one thing I've heard during my time as a trainer is "I don't need to lift my legs anymore, because I'm running more - that is enough". I can't possibly emphasize enough just how WRONG this line of thinking is. In fact, I'm comfortable in saying that this attitude towards lower body training is exactly why knees start aching, ankles start shaking, and hips start feeling tighter then a pair too small tube socks.
When you begin your running program it is absolutely imperative to continue your lifting program. An emphasis needs to be placed on training your glutes, hamstrings, abductors, lats, and core. With the exception of the abdominal muscles - all of the aforementioned muscles are a part of the posterior chain - AKA the backside of your body.
The muscles in the posterior chain, especially the glutes and hamstrings, are critical for force development during the running stride, and aid in maintaining the integrity of the hip-knee-ankle relationship during foot-strike.
Build your runs around your lifts and not the other way around. You want to spend the bulk of your time building your body up, and less time breaking it down. If you are looking to have a successful running season and a healthy body in the long term, then it is critical for you to stay focused on your lifting routine.
A complete body is one that is trained in multiple directions, with multiple loads, and with multiple devices. Be sure to train your muscles with weights, with body weight, and with your runs!
Check back next week for the 5 best lifts for runners (I'll even have video so you can see them!) - and learn exactly what you want to do to maximize your time in the gym, and the time on your run.
2. Develop Your Stride
It amazes me just how many people do not know how to run. It isn't really a fault of their own though. Most of us are never really "taught" how to run, rather we develop our stride on our own by watching others and mimicking their movements, as well as discovering our own through play and sport.
When you are looking to boost your running performance - break your run down first. All too often it assumed that logging miles will improve someone's running ability. This couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, with bad form - logging a ton of miles will only worsen your form as your body struggles to work through poor form and muscular imbalances.
It is critical to take the time, even if it means hiring a professional trainer, to learn how to run correctly. Mastering your stride from the ground up, controlling the pathway of the knees, and learning how to engage your with quality arm movements are all essential to actualizing your best run times.
A quick checklist for you is as follows:
1. Arms do not cross your body. You core should not OVER rotate. Your arms should drive up and down like pistons and your core should only rotate as a reflection of this, and not because your are actively twisting.
2. As you bring your knees upwards think about pulling a staple from the ground with your toe. Elevate the toes as your knee moves towards the mid-line.
3. Reach out in front with the bottom of your toes and "spike" the floor with the bottom of your shoes as you strike the ground. Push forward - not up and down.
4. Imagine swiping a 100 dollar bill behind you with your down leg going through the backstroke. You want to "pull" the ground with your foot, and not drive down into the ground.
5. Breathe in a steady interval from a relaxed jaw and open nostrils. Find the rhythm that works for you.
3. Watch your Total Mileage Unless you are training for a specific distance in a specific race be wise of the miles you are logging every week. With every mile you log you are adding stress to your body, especially your joints, skeletal system, and nervous system.
It is more important to make your miles count, then to count the miles you make!
Say it again runners. Copy it, put it in your shoes if you have to. You need to understand this point.
Running four really great miles and finishing on top of your run is so much better than trudging out six or seven miles and feeling like you were smashed by a bus once you get home.
Running your best possible mile is significantly better than working your way through another five when you are feeling exhausted and stressed.
If you are training for a marathon, half-marathon, or even a 10K - it is crucial for you to train up to 20, 10, and 4 miles respectively. You do not want to be unprepared for the distance you are about to travel on race day. However, if you are running just because you enjoy it for exercise, then be sure to be mindful of the impact you are placing on your frame. There is no reason to run multiple ten milers in a week when you aren't training for a race - and yet, I know a bunch of people who do it on a regular basis.
These individuals are always complaining about their knees, tight hip flexors, and issues with their sleep and body composition.
A couple short runs during the week and a long run on the weekend should suffice for everyone who isn't training for a race. Short and long will be controlled by your experience as a runner, your goals, and your overall conditioning.
Do not lock into a set mileage. Lock into a quality run. Lock into feeling great at the end; not like you were hit by a truck.
I've gone on record as saying I'm not a huge fan of distance running. I do believe there are significantly better ways to invest your time and energy for training your body. However, I am a coach who understands that anytime someone is moving towards becoming better - THAN WHO AM I TO GET IN THEIR WAY? Runners are going to run. Lifters are going to lift. And - as always - haters are going to hate.
As the birds chirp and the sun creeps above the horizon many will already have found their stride. Headphones in ear, phone in hand, and a mind anywhere but there. Every step is their workout, their therapy, and their vacation. Runners will seek the pavement just as a lifter will find a barbell.
If you are going to run, then do it with intelligence. Mind your mileage, refine your stride, and never stop taking care of your muscles in the gym. Lift heavy for the posterior chain and find quality in your steps and your miles.
The seasons are changing and so to will your habits. Be wise and be fast!