Cross training. Most runners hate it. All we want to do is run. But running only works the heart, the lungs, and everything from the waist down. I have found, in a short three years, that core strength is just as important to being a balanced and healthy runner as strong quads, hams, and glutes. But first, let's go back to the beginning.
I weighed 250 pounds and was dying a slow death from type II diabetes and high blood pressure.
And my friend Abel Berry took me under his wing, so to speak, and into the gym with him. We killed it 4 days per week. I cut excessive nonsense from my diet. I started eating smarter. And I lost 50 pounds in six months. No running. No specific cardio. Just hit it hard and heavy in the gym and changed up the way I ate. And then I started running solely for the purpose of running a half marathon in memory of my nephew. But running and I hit it off really well. I loved running and found that I'd rather run than to the gym so I stopped working out.
And then... the injuries. Recurring injuries. IT Band Syndrome. Piriformis Syndrome. Glutes were weak. So weak even that my chiro commented on them more than once. Herniated L4/L5. Twice even. And I found that injury recovery and long run recovery took longer and longer. I had lost that "core strength" and with that I had lost upper body stability. So earlier this year I returned to the gym two days per week. In a few short weeks I found that my running improved. I am getting faster. And running longer. Recovering faster. And most importantly, not injured repeatedly.
Cross training. I believe, firmly, that strength training is the most important thing a runner can do besides running. I go to the gym two days per week and work all the muscle groups. One day I do heavy weights with lower reps and the other day I do lighter weights with higher reps. And I work both upper body and lower body both days since I know I'll be running the other days. Squats are a runner's best friend. And do not neglect the abs. Upper abs, lower abs, and obliques all need to be worked and kept strong.
I strongly recommend Weight Training for Runners: Ultimate Guide by Rob Price which you can pick upon Amazon in either book or electronic form.
If you don't have a gym membership bodyweight strength training can be done in your living room and there are plenty of great exercises you can do with nothing more than your body that will get you the real muscle strength you need to be an effective, strong, and injury free runner.
Don't neglect the rest of the body. It really is one big kinetic machine and all of it has to work together to run strong.
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