I started working at a gym at the ripe old age of 21. Having never been a gym rat until just before I started working there, I was amazed the first time I noticed I was starting to sprout biceps. Hello sweet coolness! Covers of Muscle and Fitness orbited my ever-increasing dollar-flying brain, but much to my chagrin – and a constant battle with Mama Nature’s genetics – the M&F publishers never came knocking on my door.
For the 20+ years since then, I’ve intermittently played the role of gym rat, always chasing that elusive cover look. Alas, this Black Dog will always be short and dumpy and will curse my eastern European genetics until the end of time. Never one to make excuses though, I battled on – squeezing, grunting, lifting, and cursing my way through countless reps, weights, and trainers. Little did I know just how much all that sweat would benefit me.
Now I’m not suggesting carrying a set of dumbbells while you’re running. It would suck the big one if you ended up knocking yourself out on an arm swing or dropping one on an already messed up, nasty black toe. Not to mention how funny you would look to the hot shirtless guy running towards you.
I would however, strongly suggest keeping the weight work in a not so forwardly (?) mobile position. Here’s why. And please keep in mind I’m not a professional trainer, coach, runner or peanut packer. (I just threw that last one in there to make sure you’re paying attention.) It’s simple physiology: moving the same muscles the same way over and over and over again, just ain’t gonna cut it. Pretty darn scientific of me, ain’t it?
We all know by now that running takes a little bit more than just putting one foot in front of the other. Repetitive motion can lead to muscle imbalances. Muscle imbalances can lead to other things. Just like – yes, you know where I’m going with this – straight to a nice fat case of ITBS, (among a variety of other hateful runner problems which I dare not even mention for fear of them magically finding their way to this short, dumpy body).
Google any number of common running ailments and you’ll find any number of strength training exercises to combat them. ITBS? Fight that bad boy with clam shells, squats, pistol squats, and reps on the adductor machine. Weak quads? Extend those legs until the cows come home. Not so fab abs? Plank, crunch, and hyperextend that lower back until you see stars. Go ahead! It’s all good!
Don’t know what ails you? Go see that doctor. You know the one. The one that shamelessly displays every expensive Marathon Foto frame from all 37 marathons he or she has ever run. At least you have a shot at them being able to relate to what you’re going through and then give you some direction as to what you can do to heal and prevent said ailment. AFTER they collect their hefty copay of course.
In the end though, the research on the benefits of weight training is as plentiful as Moose Tracks ice cream in my freezer. One the best sites around is Active.com. Plug in what you want to work on and voila! Articles, pictures, and examples of what exercises can help are easy to find. (I can hardly be objective on this one as I am a total Active junkie.) Another great site is Runner’s World. Their online training tips are awesome. But no matter which site you go to, what articles or books you read, or what experts may say, they all come to the same conclusion. If you want to run injury-free – or least as injury-free as you can – you HAVE to mix it up. So pop in that Jillian Michaels DVD, kneel at the BeachBody altar, or get your dupa back in the gym. And when the inevitable lactic acid buildup is screaming your name, feel free to scream right back. Your legs, back, even your core will thank you for it. This guy might too.
Enjoy the ride.
Do you find strength training helps your running?