Boost­ing run­ners’ per­for­mance, pre­vent­ing in­jury

The Hamilton Spectator - - HEALTH - ERNIE SCHRAMAYR

The mix of ter­rain along the Ni­a­gara Es­carp­ment, the marked wa­ter­front trails and the Around the Bay Road Race (… older than Bos­ton!) all make for a pretty com­pelling case that Hamil­ton is Canada’s “Run­ning Cap­i­tal.”

We are also home to many run­ning clubs that teach ev­ery­one from begin­ners to elite par­tic­i­pants. The clubs are great for pro­vid­ing the ba­sic skills needed to take some­one from their couch to the fin­ish line.

Where I find some are lack­ing, how­ever, is when it comes to strength train­ing, specif­i­cally weight train­ing. That part is ei­ther com­pletely ig­nored or the in­struc­tion is too ba­sic to be of value to any­one other than the ab­so­lute begin­ner.

When I work on strength with run­ners, we stress three main ar­eas: in­jury pre­ven­tion, per­for­mance en­hance­ment and body com­po­si­tion. Do­ing this al­lows us to give mean­ing to the plan­ning and im­ple­men­ta­tion of their train­ing pro­gram.

I like to work the body as a whole unit on most days, com­bin­ing both stan­dard iso­la­tion ex­er­cises and more func­tional, com­pound move­ments. Many strength pro­grams for run­ners fo­cus too much on tra­di­tional bodybuilding ex­er­cises, which I feel is a mis­take.

There are some very ba­sic things about run­ning that make it nec­es­sary to use ex­er­cises that fo­cus on “move­ments” rather than “mus­cles.”

1. Run­ning is an ac­tiv­ity that oc­curs in “ro­ta­tion.” Orig­i­nat­ing from the core, the very act in­volves a slight twist­ing of the body where one leg moves closer to the op­po­site arm.

Bodybuilding works to iso­late one mus­cle at a time in a “lin­ear” fash­ion. This move­ment never oc­curs in run­ning.

2. A run­ner NEVER has both feet on the ground at the same time, mean­ing that run­ning is a sin­gle-leg ac­tiv­ity.

3. Strength and en­durance in the up­per body are very im­por­tant to help main­tain proper pos­ture, which aids in a more ef­fi­cient run­ning stride. The longer some­one runs, the more the head, neck and shoul­ders tend to droop if the sup­port­ing mus­cles aren’t prop­erly con­di­tioned. This re­sults in an ex­ag­ger­ated cer­vi­cal curve in the spine, which af­fects the tho­racic and lum­ber ar­eas.

When the lum­bar spine flat­tens out, it is very dif­fi­cult to main­tain knee drive and stride length will be short­ened. All of this makes the run­ner “shuf­fle” at a slower pace and makes him or her more sus­cep­ti­ble to overuse or repet­i­tive strain injuries.

Tak­ing into ac­count the var­i­ous needs of a run­ner, we can plan a strength pro­gram that com­bines whole body move­ments along with iso­la­tion ex­er­cises and per­form some of them in ro­ta­tion. Divide the ex­er­cises evenly be­tween the up­per and lower body and in­clude sin­gle-leg ac­tiv­i­ties in each ses­sion.

A great way to meet all of these de­mands is to use a “hy­brid” sys­tem of work­ing out. Hy­brid train­ing refers to the com­bin­ing of two or more ex­er­cises, in a group, to ad­dress dif­fer­ent needs.

The ex­er­cises are per­formed in se­quence without any rest. Af­ter the last ex­er­cise is com­pleted, there is a brief re­cov­ery and then the group is re­peated.

For a run­ner, I would rec­om­mend do­ing at least three ex­er­cises as a group. The first would be a tra­di­tional strength train­ing move for iso­la­tion, fol­lowed by a multi-joint move­ment us­ing the whole body and the third should em­pha­size a spe­cific need such as bal­ance or core strength. Since most run­ners are train­ing mul­ti­ple times per week, I would rec­om­mend do­ing these strength ses­sions two to three times per week to al­low for max­i­mum re­cov­ery.

Here is an ex­am­ple of a hy­brid train­ing pro­gram for run­ners.

Strength train­ing “Tri-Plexes” as fol­lows:

Se­quence A

Dumbbell Bench Press Ro­ta­tional Pushups Mod­i­fied Ab­dom­i­nal Plank

Se­quence B

Lat Pull­downs Stand­ing Re­sis­tance Band Row­ing with Ro­ta­tion (Al­ter­nat­ing Sin­gle Arm) Sta­bil­ity Ball Bridges

Se­quence C

Dumbbell Squats Sin­gle Leg Floor Touches Re­sis­tance Band Ro­ta­tions De­pend­ing on where the run­ner is in his or her train­ing cy­cle, the weights, sets and reps are to be ad­justed to em­pha­size mus­cle build­ing, en­durance or fat burn­ing.

Ernie Schramayr, CPT, is a Med­i­cal Ex­er­cise Spe­cial­ist in Hamil­ton who helps his clients man­age med­i­cal con­di­tions with ex­er­cise. You can follow him at ernies­fit­ness­ 905-741-7532 or ernies­fit­ness­

To watch a video demon­stra­tion of a hy­brid train­ing pro­gram for run­ners, visit thes­

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