Over the past few months I have had the pleasure of doing personal training with an individual preparing for the Boston Marathon. I am going to devote this blog post to some common mistakes I see when runners try to design their own strength training programs and/or ignore it completely….

NOTE- this blog post is geared towards the competitive runner. This is not for the “I am running to lose weight group”…If you are JUST running, to lose weight, then you are going nowhere . You need to address….

• What you put in your mouth
• Do some strength training for your metabolism (hold on to your muscle) so you can make long term progress towards your fat loss goals

The majority of people who follow the “I am just going to run” to lose weight program end up with cortisol levels through the roof (Cortisol suppresses the immune system, decreases bone formation, and can lead to weight gain, especially in the abdominal area-interesting studies here ) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7444345 and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16353426) and overuse injuries. Do the above to lose weight (from fat)as you gradually increase mileage if long distance running is the goal…not the other way around. Increase mileage without losing weight and getting stronger, and it’s like taking your car with the service engine light across country and back. The chance of a problem( injury) is high with a lot of pressure and constant pounding on the joints.

One last note to say this article might be a little more technical than others I have written. This post might not even be for you, but it will help one person. The last thing I want you to do is overanalyze this article.

Now that I made a few of you angry……lets move on to the fun part of the problems I had to fix, and a few other things that I often see. The first thing we did was complete a functional movement screen along with multiple tests to get an indication of the areas we needed to address. He scored low on rotary stability and the hurdle step test, which often means there is good chance of injury from running. For this specific individual a few problems we had to address were….

• Strength and flexibility in the hamstrings and hips
• Imbalances in all planes
• Weak gastrocnemius (or calf muscles)
• Lack of core strength and keep in mind this is more than the “abs.” I am not going to get off topic here, but if you lack strength in the center of your body the muscles further away will work harder..not a good thing
• He lacked range of motion in the hip…mobility

All of the problems above mean he was not an efficient runner(wasting energy which showed up towards the end of races) , was not applying as much force to the ground as he could, and the imbalances caused him to get injured all the time…..

Things I did to correct these problems………..

I changed his old school static stretching warm-up to a dynamic warm-up. You should not be preparing to move by sitting down. Even though this makes sense there is an old school mentality still out there that touching your toes is preparing you to exercise, it is not. Based around his specific needs we developed a dynamic warm-up to prepare him for his runs.

We had him foam roll daily! Addressing soft tissue work through massage improved his flexibility and his ability to recover quicker in between sessions. If rolling out your IT band and glutes makes you want to cry, then just realize this is better than crying because you did not do it..ended up injured and can’t even run

I made sure he understood the difference between flexibility and mobility. He had been addressing flexibility for a long time, but was not doing any mobility work to address movement around the joints. People talk about hip mobility a lot but often forget to address ankle mobility and thoracic spine mobility. I often tell my members if you are screwed up somewhere, it will show up somewhere else. I plan to address this even more in future articles (mostly because I have to explain all the exercises that people don’t feel….and explain to my members why they are on their hands and knees with their butt in their air doing these “stupid” exercises..)

I had to get him unbalanced in order to get him balanced!…this is referring to his strength training routine. I had to hammer the backside of his body! For a long time he had been addressing “mirror muscles” which just had him hunched over with horrible posture. I more than doubled the ratio of pulling (exercises for hamstrings, glutes, upper back) when compared to pushing or mirror muscles. The improved posture affects where his foot lands/ footstrike. He is able to apply more force to the ground and everything down to breathing patterns and stride length improve with this.

We strengthened his tibialis anterior muscle…When people think of the lower leg they think of the calf. On the other side is an important muscle that people often forget. If this area is weak, it will limit strength in the gastrocnemius and the soleus on the backside of the lower leg.

I made him realize that strength training was GPP or General Physical Preparedness for the runner. We are laying a foundation for him to run his best race ever…not preparing him for a bodybuilding competition. His former trainer had been following the “beat down” method of program design. Like the great coach Martin Rooney says “anyone can make you tired; only a great coach can get you results.” We mapped out all of his strength training sessions leading up to Boston, placed harder lower body workouts on days that would not affect his most important runs, and then allowed enough time for him to back-off (or maintain his strength gains) so he can peak for his best race ever!! We addressed recovery needs such as sleep, water, diet, and I even had some people address everything down to his gait, shoes, etc.

In closing I will say working hard is great, but are you working smart?! This awesome individual is doing both….he was running at 5am when schools were closed because it was too cold. If you are interested in my program design options for runners send over an email to info@resultsperformancetraining.com so we can get you on track for your best race ever!!!!

Detric Smith, CSCS, ACSM-HFS