Strength Training Is My New Best Friend

Blog Arms BrockFor the majority of time I’ve been a runner, strength training has not even been on my radar. I’d run 3-4 times a week, do a little stretching here and there and maybe pick up some weights once in a while, but never consistently or as part of a routine. During my time off from running earlier this year, my Coach had me doing strength training about 3 times a week and now that I am back to running, I don’t want to let it go! The physical changes have been awesome, bigger muscles, a flatter stomach, and a stronger core. Just ask my boyfriend or my sisters how many times I send them pictures of my arms or my calves or my back when I see new muscles peeking through! I also notice that my everyday movements from lifting things, walking up stairs, or running are so much more powerful than they were before.  After a workout, even something as simple as walking feels more efficient as I notice the muscles in my core, legs and back helping me stand taller and walk faster.

The most fun part of my strength training routine is a workout my Coach has created specifically for me called “Madonna Arms.” Even since I was little, Madonna has been one of my idols and at 55 years old, I think she still has the most rocking arms in the music industry. I’ve always wanted arms like her and when I told my Coach, he said he’d design a tough arm workout so that I can have “Madonna Arms” as I cross the finish line this year! His exact words were: “No reason you can’t have awesome arms when you are crossing the finish line.” Now I just have to figure out how to hold my arms up and flex them as I am running for the best possible finish line photo…

In addition to using weights, I am also loving body weight only exercises. My top 5, in order, are: squats, planks, single-leg deadlifts, lunges, and push-ups. Squats are my favourite because you can do so many variations of them, with or without weights, fast or slow, arms up or down, feet planted or jumping, and they do wonders for your glutes, thighs and core. You can just feel the power of a squat go through your entire body with each repetition! Need more reasons to love the squat? Here’s a short article about Squat Vs Leg Press – Which Is Better? I bet you can guess which one comes out on top. My least favourite body-weight exercise right now is the push-up, but I am learning to love it. I can only do modified, or “lady push-ups” right now, but I am slowly making my way up to the real thing. When I started doing push-ups earlier this year, they were looking more like awkward downward dogs, but I am getting better, I swear!

I don’t know if it’s just because I am more aware, but I have seen TONS of articles come out lately about strength training for runners. Here are a few worth reading:

1) Why All Runners Should Strength Train  from Greatist. “While most forms of strength training can help improve overall performance, adding heavy resistance exercises, in particular, can make you faster during the final sprint of a race.”

2) Why Runners Need To Strength Train from Huffington Post. Strength training improves performance. Think about it: If runners are never hurt, then they have more time to train and log miles at a higher intensity.”

3)  10 Essential Strength Exercises For Runners from Runners World. “Supplementing running with strengthening exercises will not only aid in injury prevention but will make you a stronger, faster, and more efficient runner.”

4) Hip To The Core from Canadian Running.  “Proper core stability can help maximize running performance, maintain the centre of gravity over the base of support, control leg motion while running, and help prevent running injuries.”

5) The Four Best Strength Training Exercises For Runners from Competitor. “Strength training is one of the single most important non-running aspects of training that can help you become a better runner.”

6) Strength Training Is The Best Way To Lose Weight from Business Insider. “Watch your diet to reveal your shape, and strength train to improve that shape.”

Strength training is one of the single most important non-running aspects of training that can help you become a better runner.
Read more at http://running.competitor.com/2014/01/training/the-four-best-strength-training-exercises-for-runners_40725#Qg8DIhT4MvsdhoTg.99
Strength training is one of the single most important non-running aspects of training that can help you become a better runner.
Read more at http://running.competitor.com/2014/01/training/the-four-best-strength-training-exercises-for-runners_40725#Qg8DIhT4MvsdhoTg.99
Strength training is one of the single most important non-running aspects of training that can help you become a better runner.
Read more at http://running.competitor.com/2014/01/training/the-four-best-strength-training-exercises-for-runners_40725#Qg8DIhT4MvsdhoTg.99
Strength training is one of the single most important non-running aspects of training that can help you become a better runner.
Read more at http://running.competitor.com/2014/01/training/the-four-best-strength-training-exercises-for-runners_40725#Qg8DIhT4MvsdhoTg.99
Strength training is one of the single most important non-running aspects of training that can help you become a better runner.
Read more at http://running.competitor.com/2014/01/training/the-four-best-strength-training-exercises-for-runners_40725#Qg8DIhT4MvsdhoTg.99

If I have one piece of advice for runners, new or experienced, it’s learn to LOVE strength training! Running, and only running, is a sure recipe for injuries and burnout and an unbalanced body. Give your body a break from pounding the pavement once or twice a week and embrace the weights. Benefits include a stronger core, calves of steel, a rocking butt, and if you’re lucky, MADONNA ARMS!

blog madonna arms

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Moving Forward

20x30-HSAV1416I had my long-awaited allergy test last Monday and the result was: I am allergic to wheat. According to my allergist this is most likely what caused my anaphylactic reaction on February 10th and I should therefore avoid any and all wheat products forever. This doesn’t come as a surprise to me as I suspected wheat to be the culprit of an annoying and itchy skin rash I’ve had on my hands for the last few years and severe bloating and stomach cramps after eating certain foods. I think it’s all connected and I am glad I finally have some answers.

Since I now have the “all-clear” for running, with my Epi-Pen on me at all times of course, I went for a couple of runs last week. In reality, the were more like trots at a 9:00/km pace, but it felt liberating to finally be able to lace up my shoes and thrown on some running tights again! I only managed about 30 minutes on each run, and I felt like throwing up after each one, but the journey towards building up my cardio fitness again has begun. On the plus side, I have been doing a lot of strength training and “Madonna Arm Workouts” (I requested these from my coach) so I’m coming back to running with a stronger core and some bigger muscles. As my wise Coach once said “No reason you can’t have awesome arms when you are crossing the finish line.”

20x30-HSAS3701

I had my first race this Saturday at Harry’s Spring Run-Off in High Park. An annual family favourite, I thought I’d be able to run the 8k, but after a particularly tough run on Thursday night, I knew that was out of the question. Instead, I transferred to the 5K race and walked it with my Dad. We finished the race in 44:47, 13 seconds away from my Dad’s 5K PB and we had a great time. Despite the freezing temperatures and strong winds, we kept up a steady walking pace and even ran a few of the downhill sections. Next year I know my Dad can beat his PB and I’ll be there to walk him through the tough parts and make sure he comes in under 44 minutes.

I met with my Running Coach this evening and we talked through my new running plan for 2014. It looks like I’ll do a run/walk half-marathon in a month, with the goal being a 2 hour half marathon in the early fall and *maybe* a full in late fall or early spring 2015. I wouldn’t mind focusing on some shorter distances for the rest of the year and setting PBs in both the 5K and 10K distance while working on my speed. The last thing I want to do is rush into training for a marathon and burn out again. I told my coach, this time I doing things right and will listen to my body, eat right, train right, and rest right. No more anxious runs or post-run panic attacks.

The thing I am most excited about now that I can run again is getting out to train with my friends! I really missing run with the crew at Tribe Fitness and my #1 running partner Linda <3.  If there’s one thing I have gained from running these past few years, it’s the most KICK-ASS group of friends anyone could ask for. They were even out to cheer my Dad and I on at Harry’s Spring Run-Off on Saturday and that meant the world to me. If you are in Toronto and looking for a running group, I highly suggest you #JoinTheTribe Wednesday nights at 7pm at Canoe Landing Park. All details can be found on their Facebook page. I am planning to have my first run back with them on Wednesday. It’s going to be slow, and it will probably be a bit painful, but there is no where I’d rather be on a lovely spring evening than running with my friends.