This is the conversation I will have with most runners.
Runner: “I started getting back into a focused mindset and am going to really get into my runs.”
(Runner starts out doing great, the runs are going well, and everything is progressing.)
*After a while of positive runs*
Runner: “I am seeing a dip in my runs this past week.”
Me: “Maybe you need to cut back and focus on some other things?”
Runner: “No, its just a bad week. I had a lot going on.”
(Over the next few weeks, things get worse.)
Runner: “I am always tired, my times are slipping, I have some injuries I am dealing with, and I’m struggling. I think I am going to take a few weeks off and go to the gym.”
Me: “Sounds like a great idea!”
(After 4 weeks, the runner starts running again, everything is back to 100 percent and she’s running better than ever.)
Me: “That’s great, so I guess going to the gym a bit more and running less is the way to go?”
Runner: “Are you crazy? If I am running this well now, imagine how I would do if I increased my runs?”
Me: *Total frustration*
It seems that weight training for distance runners is a split. Some runners are very aware of the benefits and view weight training as an important part of their program. Other runners tend to ONLY want to run and do not put an equal value on weight training.
Let me start by stating this. In my experience, if you want to get better at any one task–no matter what it is–the most success will come if you incorporate other activities which will enhance the task you really want to make better. So, for example, if I have a runner who is preparing for a half marathon, my training regimen for them is to have one long day, one short day and one medium day, the other two are lifting and the last two are days off. The program itself varies, usually it goes three weeks of progressively increasing the miles in each day then one to two weeks of a decrease and then three more weeks of ramping. The point here is, four days are focused on strength and recovery, and three are focused on the task, while only one of those days do we focus on an actual long distance run.
I find most runners, whether they are training for a run or just going out for a leisurely jog, never have a system or game plan. Yet, when they evaluate their run I hear things like:
- “I couldn’t run as far today.”
- “I had a slow pace.”
- “I did more yesterday.”
- “My legs felt heavy.”
There is just no rhyme or reason, no solid plan, and therefore no solid data from which to evaluate other than what you evaluate in that moment. The problem with this is you’re making adjustments after the damage is done, so you are always behind. Create a good plan and your markers are pre-set, and you’ll never have to deal with the dip in performance.
What happens to the runners who only run is this: Their body is only being used on one repetitive plane of movement. Eventually the quads get tight, the hamstrings atrophy, and the glutes shut off. Combine this with pounding and stresses placed every time your foot strikes, you are doomed for injury and excessive wear and tear.
Simply going to the gym just two days per week, working in explosive movements in different planes of motion will help you to avoid these problems. Plus, it will give you an extra two days to recover from running, making your runs more effective and healthy overall, AND putting you into a position to succeed.