Strong leg muscles are crucial for running fast, but many runners underestimate the importance of upper body strength for good running performance.
Your arm swing influences every movement from your hips down. If you swing your arms faster, this automatically increases your step frequency. Slow and long swings produce the opposite effect: this is due to the fact that our arm and leg movements are coordinated by our brain.
The correct arm technique makes your running form efficient. However, you can’t run with optimal form until you build up your upper body. Today, I'm focusing on the biceps. All you need for this exercise is a looped band that you've probably gotten from a phsyio but that can also easily be bought online. I'll add a link in the comments.
In a kneeling position, wrap the band around your leg. Grab the band with the hand on the same side.Keep your upper body tall and shoulders relaxed.
Pull your hand up towards your shoulder against the resistance of the band. Your upper arm should stay stationary as you pull on the band, keeping your elbow underneath your shoulder and close to your body.
Release the hold and return to the starting position. Do 10-15 repetitions on one side, then switch to the other side.
A strong upper body is essential for guaranteeing an efficient transfer of energy from your body to your legs. Without this, the proper arm technique cannot provide optimal support to your legs. An efficient running form helps you run faster and expend less energy.
I may be biased (just slightly!!) but I think running is awesome!! Here are only 16 reasons why…I’m sure there’s more!
Why are strong glutes so important for runners?
Well, first let’s look at the basic biomechanics of running.
The glutes are made up of the Gluteus maximimus, medius and minimus. Their names indicate the size of the muscle. When we run, the gluteus maximus is responsible for hip extension, or raising your leg behind your thigh and knee behind you after pushing off with your foot. Good hip extension creates the energy of that leg swing into forward motion. Thus, Gluteus Maximus has more to do with the propulsion and deceleration jobs, whilst Gluteus Medius and Minimus have a lot more to do with stability.
Now that we know what the muscles are, we can see what a big role those muscles those muscles play when we run. Weak glutes can lead to the following injuries:
Strengthening gluteus maximus is easy enough as these are exercises that can be done in the gym with weights. Of course, Medius and Minimus are strengthened at the same time as they are stabilising maximus.
Watch out for my videos on my website and on Instagram and Facebook showing you how to strengthen all of your glute muscles!
Have you ever seen a runner late (or even early!!) in a race; slouched over and looking exhausted? Do you think that is helping them to run better? I'm sure you don't, and you would be right! Strong runners need a strong back!
But why? Well, let’s break it down.
To avoid the dreaded slouch:.
In order to maintain a good, upright posture, runners need to work on strengthening their backs. Staying upright is more comfortable and efficient than curving over whilst running. And your race-day pics look better.
To stabilise the hips:
We all know that most injuries come from the hips. A strong back keeps the hip stable, which in turn reduces your risk of injury. And nobody wants to be injured!!
The arms (and back) lead the legs;
As your legs fatigue, it pays to swing your arms faster. This will enable the legs to turn over faster. You can only do this if you have a good upright posture that is created by having a strong back.
You can breathe better:
A strong back keeps you upright and enables you to open up your chest to breathe easier.
In order to maintain a good, upright posture,Runners need to work on strengthening their backs. Staying upright is more comfortable and efficient than curving over whilst running. And your race-day pics look better!
It seems these days that a marathon is no longer enough, now everyone wants to run an ultra-marathon. What is an ultra-marathon you ask? Well, basically any run that is longer than a 42.2km marathon. So yes, a 45km race is an ultra-marathon! But who wants to only do 45km? In these days of less is more, with ultras, more really is more!!
The most popular ultra-running distance is 100km, but you can also opt for 100 miles, 200 miles or track/loop races that can go for anywhere from 6-48 hours…sometimes even 6 days. What fun I hear you say! Indeed, it is, but only if you put in the training. Yes, there is always a caveat.
Training for an ultra needn’t be too daunting. If you are already a runner, it will simply involve a few modifications to your training plan. If you are not a runner, best get onto a couch to 5k program first, and then the ultra world will beckon!
Training for an ultra does not require absurd amounts of time running. You will need to run about 5-6 days per week, however. You will need to do some higher intensity speed work (even though it is an ultra, you still need to teach the body to run fast…in case you need to sprint past a competitor!!), some easy days to shake out the legs and build the leg/tendon/mitochondrial strength of the body and one to two long runs per week to build your endurance and mental strength. For a 100k race, the long run really does not have to be more than 50k or thereabouts. Where you run this long run depends on your races; if your race is mountainous run it in the mountains, if it’s on the track, run it on the track! Easy! If you are doing a 100 or 200 miler, you may need to do back-to-back long runs to teach your body to run on tired legs. This means a long run Saturday, followed by another on Sunday. The weekday runs need not be more than an hour to ninety minutes each session.
Long runs are also a great time to test your nutrition. This is as individual as the runner themselves. Some runners can run on gels alone, other use gels and chews, others use these with some real food in the mix. The longer the race, the more likely you will want to eat some real food (vegemite sandwiches, vegie soup, potatoes, etc). A 100-mile race can last for anywhere up to 30-40 hours! A 200 considerably more! Just remember, running diverts blood flow away from the stomach, leading to the possibility of ‘gastric distress’, a very real and painful condition. Hence the importance of testing what works for you!
Another component of training is strength work. Once again, this does not need to be too time-consuming, but 2-3 times per week is a good idea. Each session will be about 30-45 minutes and will focus on upper and lower body strength. Strength work keeps your body robust and helps you become a more balanced athlete.
The final, and most important, part of training is sleep and rest. Yes! Sleep is when the body recovers and re-builds muscle. Rest is when the boy improves. Training breaks down the body, sleep and general rest is when the body gets stronger. Neglect this aspect of training at your peril!
So there you have it, training for an ultra in a nutshell. Running an ultra is an amazing feeling. The sense of accomplishment when you complete this monumental effort is beyond belief. Get out there and get running! You’ll thank me later!
I write programs to help you reach your goals, ultras or not! I would love to help you!
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Hi and welcome to the Peak Endurance podcast and blog. My name is Isobel Ross and I am the coach at Peak Endurance Coaching. On today’s podcast I am going to discuss how runners can keep in control of their food and alcohol consumption over the Christmas and New Year Season.
Now I know we like to think that as runners we can have free reign on all the food. However, sadly that is not really the case. I wish it were!!! But it’s even worse when you’re injured like me!! Of course, I’m not saying for you to restrict yourself but just be sensible.
1. Don’t skip meals just so you can pig out later: Be careful not to restrict your eating during the day in order to pre-emptively compensate for a night of indulging. This approach can actually backfire because it can lead to overeating later. Rather than skipping meals, stick to your regular routine to maintain satiety (that is, don’t let yourself go hungry)! Just make sure that the food you are eating is healthy! No need to indulge all day!
2. Have a last-minute healthy snack before you head out: Make sure you’re not starving when you head out for the evening. Eat a small, quick serving of fruit, vegetables or a small handful of nuts before you leave the house to stave off the hunger. Healthy snacking before a cocktail party can prevent overeating party food that, more often than not, is calorically dense. And not only calorie dense but nutritionally deficit. Also, drink lots of water during the day before you go out as this will help you to feel fuller.
3. Use a small plate to trick yourself. Whether it’s a buffet-style dinner party or a cocktail party (although that normally entails a napkin!) with small nibbles, a small plate can make you think you are eating more than you’re actually eating.
4. Drink in moderation or not at all. Okay, I put that last bit in knowing not many people would follow it, including myself! However, it is true that alcohol, simply put, is empty calories. Cocktails have a lot of added sugar (and fat, if you’re drinking egg nog!) on top of the alcohol itself. If wine is your drink of choice, ask for a wine spritzer. And one more tip: pace yourself! Drink slowly, and remember to alternate a glass of water for each alcoholic drink. Your body will thank you the next day!
5. Choose your calories thoughtfully. Christmas and New Year parties present an opportunity to indulge in a large variety of decadent snacks and delicious desserts that you would not normally ever consider. Don’t necessarily eat everything that is on offer! Indulge in what actually appeals to you and savour and enjoy what you are eating. Be mindful of the experience. Don’t just scarf.
6. Keep up your training, even if only at a maintenance level. Even though the weather may be hot and all we really feel like doing is relaxing in the air conditioning, don’t let your exercise routine fall by the wayside. Head out early in the morning for a run, or hit the gym. Knowing you have to train early will also stop you drinking too much the night before too! There is not many things worse than running with a hangover.
7. Enjoy Christmas. Do not forget to enjoy this wonderful time of the year. Don’t feel guilty about celebrating with friends and family. You don’t want to be the kill joy at the party or family gathering. Slowly savour each bite or each sip of drink, and listen to your body when it tells you you’re full!
I hope these tips help you a bit, but remember to not be too hard on yourself if you over-indulge. As long as it’s not a regular thing, it’s ok.
I have had so much fun starting this podcast and blog. It is something I have been wanting to do for years, and I finally decided to bite the bullet and do it. I have to thank Daniel Farrugia for giving me the confidence to go for it. I really appreciate everyone who listens and supports my podcast. Subscribing is a great way to support the podcast. Also, as I keep saying rating and reviewing it really helps too. I have had a couple more five-star reviews, one from Peekshimmer and Screechola . Thank you so much!! I really appreciate it! These reviews help the podcast to grow and be heard by more people. Also, positive reviews gives me greater leverage to get top athletes and experts on the podcast!
Once again, thank you so much everyone for all your support. I hope you all have a wonderful and safe Christmas!
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Follow my blog with Bloglovin In spite of living in a flat area, many runners feel the allure of running in the mountains. They enter the race of their dreams, then reality sets in and they wonder; how the heck am I going to train for this??
There are many ways to train for hilly races, but of course, nothing compares to actually running hills. So, by all means, use alternate methods of training, but try to get to the mountains as often as you can. Even one weekend a month is better than nothing!
One of the best ways to train for hills if you don’t have any around is to utilise stairs. Steep stairs are the best. There are three ways you can utilise stairs in your hill strength building:
1. General strength by running and up and down at a moderate pace. A Stair master can be used for this workout (not a stepper, it needs to be the machine where the stairs rotate)
2. Sprinting: Sprint up the stairs (one at a time) as fast as you can for about 30 seconds. Take it easy back down the stairs as recovery.
3. Stair bounding: Bound up the stairs (skipping a step each time). Aim to really get some lift and air with each bound. Back down the stairs is recovery.
Weights in the gym is another way of developing the leg strength for hilly races.
1. Stepping up onto a step (and progressively making this higher). Start without weights and progress to adding weights.
2. Split squats: stationary or forward/reverse lunges, either onto or off a step or on the flat ground. All add good variation! Add weight when your form is 100% correct.
3. One legged squats with dumbbells
4. Kettlebell squats on a bosu ball
5. Box jumps
The variety is endless!
Find a hill!!
It doesn’t matter how short the hill is. Find the steepest hill you can (even if it is in a carpark leading up the next level) and sprint up it!! Hard!! Repeat, with the down as recovery. You can also do high knee skipping and bounding up these as well.
Equally, you can use this as a downhill workout. Walk up the hill, then sprint down. You need to strengthen the legs for downhill running as much, of not more than, for uphill.
If you are lucky, the treadmills at your gym will be able to be put up to a decent incline. When I was living in Canada and couldn’t do my normal workouts, I would practice hiking on the treadmill. Unfortunately you can’t really train for the downhills this way, but you can learn to get a good hike on.
Hopefully this has given you some good ideas on how to train for hills in a flat area. As I said in the beginning, however, nothing beats training on actual hills. So really try to get some proper hills in as part of your plan that is progressing you towards your A-race. And remember to keep it fun! Ultimately if you can only train on the flat, then that is all you can do. Do the best training you can and let it go. Many years ago, I won the 6 Foot track marathon whilst I was training for a sub-3 hour marathon on the flat. It is possible!
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