I avoided it for as long as I could, but I still ended up in the weight room. If I’m skeptical about the benefits of weight training for distance runners, at least I’m not alone. There are a lot of articles online about runners and weights, and they range from the skeptical to the hostile. Not to mention weights can be downright dangerous.
But no one was suggesting that weight training would directly improve my running. My body scan indicated I could use less fat and more lean. A little time in the weight room should improve my overall body composition. Five pounds of muscle would be more beneficial than five pounds of fat.
Exercise physiologist Mike Siemens went easy on me, but no one will ever mistake me for Charles Atlas. Old ladies were pumping more iron than I was.
Mike walked me through a strength program that I could continue at home: bench press, lateral pull-down, overhead press, leg press, biceps curl, triceps rope and ball, and leg curl. Interspersed between sets were a series of flexibility exercises utilizing the Burdenko method.
Although Burdenko is best known for aquatic physical therapy, his land exercises are designed to improve coordination, endurance and balance. The catch and pull was tough. Think of it as your standard runner quad stretch, but you grab your foot with your opposite hand while walking and stretching toward the ceiling. It looked like something that would get you hooted off Dancing with the Stars.
I was much better at the pull and kick (pictured) and the crunches. I knew all those sit-ups I did in the military would eventually come in handy.
Mike put the whole sequence on a grid for me, advising me to start it up during my “off-season” (December through February) on my two non-running days per week.
Physical limitations aside, cross-training is contrary to my normal way of thinking, which is, you get better at running by running, better at writing by writing, and off-days are days off. But I’m a middle-of-the-pack runner, not Hal Higdon, so I’ll give it a try.
Next up: Good eats.