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I meant this as a more general point.
Think about it. If we go crazy with too much running we might actually get a stress reaction/fracture. But aside from that extreme, our bones are probably good if we keep ourselves from going nuts. We might even strain a muscle and have to take a couple of weeks off. But it's pretty rare for distance runners to have a muscular rip/tear injury that has long term consequences. But there are lots of connective tissue injuries that can linger for months and even years. The reason these injuries take so long is the poor circulation to the connective tissues.
So I guess what I'm saying here is that I really believe that the first half of your comeback should be totally focused on conditioning your connective tissues. These strength routines can be a huge aid to that process if you keep the focus on the connective tissues. But like all your training, if you start looking more at the gains and performance increases, you start losing sight of the real limiting factor: the connective tissues.
In the first part of your comeback, the connective tissues will play the role of your pacer. Pass the pacer at your own risk. :)
Let me make a more specific point about these strength workouts/circuits. They are great and I want to thank Euro for providing them for us. And as I incorporate some of them into my training, here is my approach:
Going for lots of half-assed efforts.
Yeah, gonna do the half-assed thing for a while. As often as I can. 1-2 reps. Sounds like a plan. Just activate things as often as I can. Don't care about the gains. Just trying to stimulate some blood flow. *Yawn* This running thing is so easy really.
I personally believe that progressive strength training is generally good for muscles and connective tissues and joints, and 80mpw is sometimes bad for them. Damage and spasm can lurk in the main running muscles for weeks as you are only using 20% of your fibres on each stride. I stuck my fingers into a lot of good athletes' muscles as my day-job for 3 years, and worked with physios who feel the same. People who do well-designed gym routines don't have the same overuse patterns in their quads/hams/glutes/calves. Mine are healthier now then when I was young and didn't do this stuff.
I'd also say that if you are going to do it, eventually you need to do it the way every exercise textbook describes it:
- enough work to elicit a response
- enough rest interval (2-3 days) to let muscles and tendons grow back.
In the early stages, nothing wrong with doing some light stuff almost daily for a few weeks as a 'base' - but ID's been doing that.
Here is an example of a circuit. I'm assuming a gym bench, some
weights and a Swiss ball (which, if you don't have one, is usually
about $10 in TJ Maxx!). Ideally something to pull from as well - see
I'll take a guess that you want to start with one barbell or two
dumbells on about 15-25% of bodyweight. Mine are metric, I weight
75kg and I would be quite comfortable using a 20kg barbell for
circuits. If in doubt start light. You can't change plates in
mid-circuit, but you can always change up between circuits.
2. Front squat to press (barbell or dumbells)
3. Seated leg raise
4. Body weight Inverted Rows OR one-arm row (each side)
5. high step-ups (each side) or Split Squat with barbell (each side)
6. Swiss ball hamstring curls
7. Thrusts: (a) mountain climbers, (b) squat thrusts (c) burpees
8. Speed bounce - jumps over (a) line, (b) low obstacle
Full notes on exercises with links follows below.
First, warm up thoroughly. Warmups should be specific to the planned
activity (literally lesson one on the UKA coaching course!). This
could involve a mile on the treadmill, or 10min of your existing
core/lunge routine; and then ideally a short practice set of a few
reps of each exercise, carefully, with no time pressure.
Aim to do 15 reps of each exercise at first. Keep rest to a minimum -
ideally 5-10sec max to change stations. You can time the whole thing
to keep up momentum, but don't race too fast and lose form. 3min or
so between sets, then do a second one.
Progress to 20 or 25 reps after a while, and/or make exercises harder/faster.
Circuits started in the UK in the 1950s. Probably a response to lack
of expensive weights equipment, but they work, and have been a staple
of serious clubs for a long time. In a group context they let a whole
T&F team train together, giving the sprint/jump types their cardio
workout and slightly de-wimping the distance folks. In this context
they tend to involve a lot of springy stuff, medicine ball throws,
chins, even indoor sprints, as well as endurance exercises developing
some local lactate tolerance.
Lately they have become fashionable among the personal training crowd
as the high intensity produces good fat burning for the next day or
so. Designed right, all muscle groups get worked so no one part of
your body is too sore, but your whole metabolism comes under pressure.
For home us, it's better to have fixed numbers of reps and time the
For a runner, I would try to recommend a range of whole-body
exercises, some lateral movements and some light springy work, but we
do NOT want to trash the legs, as you have at least ten other ways to
do that every week.
1. Pushups: chest/triceps
If you can bang out lots already, find a harder variant.
- put a scrunched cloth, sponge or soft ball under your chest. Make
sure your chest touches
- elevate your feet
- explosive hand-claps
2. Front squat to press: bilateral leg push plus shoulders
With a weight (barbell or 2 dumbells), go down into a DEEP front squat
- all the way down. Stand up, then use your momentum to press
If you know about or want to learn Olympic lifting, you can try to do
the correct 'catch' position so you have to use power to get the bar
up high and back to where you can press it; but the weight should
probably light enough that you can just grip the bar/dumbells and lift
it from floor to ceiling if you prefer.
3. Seated leg raise: hip flexors
A variant with a ball here too..
4. Inverted rows: back/biceps
The benefit of this is that you are doing a 'back plank' for glutes
and back, and
controlling yourself, as well as using the usual pulling muscles used to drive
the arm backwards when running hard. And with body weight you can
bang them out
just like pressups.
This may be tricky as it needs something to pull off. I couldn't find the
pictures I wanted so here's an extreme one in
the gym, as hard as a full pullup.
The best of all is to tie a strap to something higher up and do them at
45'. I own a TRX (highly recommended for home circuits but possibly $150);
but for this you can do the job with a knotted length of rope, a strap
tucked over a closed door, or an old sheet with a knot in each end over the
top of a closed door. You can then adjust difficulty with body angle.
One-armed with a bit of rotation is great too.
If you cannot find a way to do this, I would substitute one of these
or dumbell), but make sure to do both sides...
5. Step-ups: unilateral leg exercise
This is good as it's more running-like than squats, and challenges the
stabiliser muscles down the sides. The ones below are probably a bit
easy for a runner, but by all means start with them..
I would stay on one side for all 15 reps
6. Swiss ball hamstring curls
If these get too easy, you can put one leg on top of the other to get a 2/3
load on one leg, or just hold one leg out and do single-legged.
7. mountain climbers, squat thrusts, burpees
Pick the one at your level. Anyone who can do 15 good burpees
in a circuit
Good for core, calves, and just about everything.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpAY01e7qDI (10sec in)
8. speed bounce: side-to-side jumps
This is to start developing some 'bounce' in your calves/quads so you
are conditioning to faster track running later. Also develops all the
little stabilising muscles up sides of legs and hips. Known as "speed
bounce" in kids' sportshall athletics here.
You can start crossing a piece of string or seam on the carpet, just going
up 2 inches and across a foot. You may need a 'double bounce' to recover
on each side at first. When you have the rhythm, find a safe but slightly
higher obstacle e.g. a piece of cardboard box you can crush if it goes wrong.
Euro - interesting that you say 20% of the fibers are used. I've always thought of 30%, but not sure where I got that number from. The important thing I guess is to realize that only a small percentage of available fibers are used at any time.
Also, let me illustrate a different point by taking the example of the "runner's knee" injury. The main training I use to combat runner's knee is the simple body weight squat. A set of 3 or 4 is enough to stimulate some blood flow to the knee area for a while. A set of 10 will do that also and probably stimulate some minor muscle growth as well. A set of 30 will definitely stimulate a growth response. In my view, if we are healthy, the optimum plan for the main purpose of injury prevention is:
1 set of 10 squats once or twice daily
a set of 3 or 4 squats done every couple of hours
Just my view on it, based on my perceived knowledge of blood flow and all that.
One of the most prestigious things about being a runner is that the sport cannot be performed at a high level without years of training. You have to pay your dues. The initial foundation must be built first or the system will eventually stress and break. Years away from running are like years spent in jail. By trying to make a comeback, we are asking for parole and the next step in our sentence is a year in the "half-ass" house. :D
That flurry of posts was the Letsrun moderator, by the way - they had to break up my circuits post from 2 nights ago as their system doesn't allow more than a hyperlink or two.
I doubt anyone knows and I suspect it depends on pace. The bit the physiologists seem to agree on is that it's the same ones; you have plenty of 'lazier, faster' ones which only get recruited when needed.
That's interesting. I know many people who have had this (myself too) and the usual advice from UK physios is that it's brought on by inadequate strength in vastus medialis (inner quads) causing the patella to be pulled slightly offline. The treatment is static quad exercises (stick your leg out straight under the desk and start writing the alphabet with your toes..) every couple of hours.
As a sports massage therapist I differed slightly; I have seen it come on in very strong people where there is overuse/spasm/tension in the quads. If a muscle has chronically tight bands in it then the associated tendon can get sore, and in this case the tendon has a great big kneecap in it.
Either way I'd manage it through trying to achieve strong, healthy quads - as well as frequent blood flow as you're doing!
I seem to get problems in a kneecap where you would think the tendons attach to the kneecap. Could that be the problem? Am I stressing or pulling the attachments loose slightly? That's what it seems like. Regardless, the squats seem to rehab it quickly and it hasn't really been a problem since much earlier in the comeback.
I know this is ID's thread, but I want details.
By the way, you guys suck. All I got is a 3:50 marathon and some public humiliation. Gaaahh!
It's kind of hard to quantify British cross country ;-)
This is the first division of the local cross country league which is one of the more competitive ones in the country. 4 races per season, 8 clubs in Division 1, 10 to score but they each turn out about 20-25 runners so fields of 160-200. Races are usually 5-6 miles but nobody knows or cares exactly. In the last few years I placed 50-60th (5min off the lead) but I worked my way up to 38th in early Jan, and 22nd today - best placing since about 1995. Nothing outstanding but I'm getting faster each week at the moment, 3min off the leaders and probably 40sec faster over 5 miles than a year ago.
I'm on target for my goals for this summer - hoping for 4:10 1500, sub-9 3000 and sub-10 steeple.
This was our home course and I am proud to say it was the best of "real cross country". Wet during the week, sun came out today. Lots of fast but wet footpaths, lots of slippy twisty turny paths through the woods, some grass fields, and a portion with a big downhill roller coaster crashing through the leaves and trees then leading into two successive steep soggy clay banks with a swamp in between. Then another lap of the same ;-)