The Importance of Strength Training

The Importance of Strength Training

23 Oct 2018

When I first started running, I thought it was just a matter of lacing up the shoes and hitting the streets, logging as many miles as I could.  In some ways this is true, but I really didn’t factor in any strength training at all.  My first Marathon in 2016 was a testament to this!  We had signed up for the ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon, we did all the running we could, we factored in speed work, hill training and long runs.  We didn’t factor in any core strength training apart from using our own multigym at home.

Looking back this was a disaster waiting to happen.  In fact, disaster struck me two weeks before the event when, on our final long run, Gayle and I went to climb some steps to a bridge, we got half way up and I felt my knee go.  The pain that shot through my quads was awful and I immediately thought this was the end to our marathon hopes, however with two weeks to go, tapering was about to start, so I decided (with a bit of encouragement from Gayle) to take things easy and see if my knee settled.

Two weeks on, it was marathon day, the knee felt well rested and after using lots of painkillers and anti-inflammatories I was ready to toe the line and give the marathon a shot.  All went well to start with, we hit the 10km marker with a PB which really lifted our spirits.  We were doing really well!  That was until we got to around the 10-mile mark when my knee suddenly went, “NO, not playing this game anymore.”

I didn’t think we would make it, but we did!

The awful pain was back.  Not to be defeated, we went to our backup plan of run/walk.  This went well for another 10 miles, after which my knee locked up completely and the doubts started to creep in.  Would we actually finish this?

I basically hobbled my way over the remaining 6.2 miles.  People were overtaking us and it felt like we were the only people left on the course.  We managed to get to the finish line, just as they started to dismantle it.  Well, at least we managed to get a chip time!!!!

I vowed after that, that I would never run a marathon again!  But of course, I did.  How quickly we forget!!

After the event, I went to see the physio who gave me a load of exercises to do.  In the meantime, Gayle started to see a Personal Trainer who specialised in functional movements.  After a few weeks and once my knee had settled down, Gayle suggested I might like to see Steve myself.  He develops a programme specially adapted to your needs and perhaps he could help with my dodgy knees, after all I had been having trouble with them for years.  In actual fact, Steve takes a look at your entire body; the way you stand, your gait, the way you walk and even the way you would pick something up off the floor!  Which by the way is not bending from the hips!!!!

Steve (our PT) put together a specialised plan of strength training for us.  I have to say that his methods have worked wonders and since the Manchester affair, I have had no troubles whatsoever with my knees.  In fact, I used to have a bit of a problem with my back as well, but this has also greatly improved since Steve got my core in better shape.

Steve has both of us doing lots of different exercises that not only benefit our running but has made us stronger throughout our bodies.  I have recently started going to see Steve for an extra session a week, because the medication that I am taking is renowned for making you put weight on, and going to see my PT will hopefully keep my weight under control.  Let’s face it, running a half marathon with an extra 9km of weight is like running carrying 9 bags of sugar!

One of my favourite exercises to do are called “Dead bugs.”  You basically lie down on your back and raise your legs so that there is a ninety-degree angle in your knees.  You raise both hands in the air and then alternate lowering one leg and the opposite arm to a couple of centimetres above the ground, then raise them back to the original position.  A more advanced method of this is to do both arms and legs together!!!  This exercise works your abs like crazy and you can feel it a couple of days after.  One thing to consider about the way in which Steve has us work is, it’s not about the number of reps that you do, it’s about quality!  Slowing down the exercises and making sure you get them right is more beneficial than going full speed ahead with little functional benefit and injuring yourself.  Dead bugs are great, you use your own body weight for resistance so no other apparatus is needed.

Strength training has made a huge difference to my running, not only has it made me a stronger person physically, but it has also made me stronger mentally, being able to push that little bit harder when things start to get tough.

If you are just starting out on your running journey I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to work strength work into your training programme.

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