On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Questions for you! Please help me.

On Monday everyone gave me such good and thoughtful responses that I have another plea for input. Here's the deal:

Since a couple of weeks ago when Crossfit tried to kill me, I've been making a concerted effort to do more core work and strength training (at home - mostly body resistance exercises like push ups, negative pull ups - ahem, these don't go so well, squats, and sit ups). You don't need to tell me how important and beneficial these exercises are in theory. It's the in practice part that I've never tried consistently enough to make a difference.

So, I'm asking you:
-do you do core work and strength training?
-how has it made a difference?
-if it has made a positive impact on your running, do you attribute this impact specifically to the strength training, or were these periods where you were taking your running more seriously?*

a picture I stole off the internet and crudely
attached my head to. I TOTALLY LOOK LIKE THAT.
-Bonus question: if you've ever had any IT band tenderness, what helped it go away? (Please don't say foam roller please don't say foam roller)**

*yes, the question I'm really asking here is, "Do I haaaave to? Or can you please tell me that I can become a stronger runner through running alone?"
**I do believe that this icky pain - one I've never experienced before! - started two days after I tried Crossfit for a second time and did 50 squats. Beware, my friends.

Moral of the story: CROSSFIT = DEATH


  1. 1. I've met you in person: you DO look like that!

    2. I'm not telling you what you should and shouldn't do. ;) However: Core work and strength training (at least 5 times a week) did help me with my running form. And I'd like to believe that it will prevent injuries. A girl can dream, right?

  2. You should try getting a yoga ball to sit on at your desk. Also, I have set my mother on you.

  3. That's interesting - I used to do the yoga ball as chair thing, but I didn't have one of those stands for it, so it got really, really annoying really quickly (having it roll around).

  4. I've had IT band issues for a while, sometimes tight and sometimes tight and very sore. Ice helps with the soreness. Stretching, stretching, stretching helps with tightness. Plus a very good deep tissue (painful) massage.
    Don't neglect periformis stretching--these things are all connected somewhere.
    I find weight training very beneficial for running---I don't recommend running only to strengthen legs. I find running after weight training is a great run. I can't bike after weight training, however.
    For core work, many running coaches recommend planks and side planks; also reverse crunches from plank position. (music helps while away the effort).
    Also, try lying back over a stability ball, with your head hanging slightly, but still supported, and feet flat on the floor: use a dumbell of less weight than you normally can lift, both hands tightly holding the dumbell, bring the dumbell from your torso up over your head and down the back of the stability ball and back up again; repeat as long as you can stand it.
    Be sure the dumbell is not so heavy you risk dropping it on your face and don't hit your head with it!!
    Also, lying on your back on the floor, put the heels of both feet on the near edge of the stability ball and lift your hips to plank position; hold, or raise and lower; wobbling when you first try it is normal; as your core strengthens, you'll be able to hold the plank.
    there are other stability ball exercises that are great for core work. google it.
    Flutter kicks while lying on your back on the floor are also good for core. Ed Eyestone of Runner's World recommends these.
    I hate push ups.

  5. I'm glad you haven't worn that outfit when we've gone running because I would have been totally intimidated.

    I do core/strength twice a week and have found that it helps my form, esp. when I get tired. I can straighten my back for example and it makes my legs lighter (metaphorically of course). It's like it redistributes the work and it's not all the legs, it's the back, the abs, the glutes, etc. I also believe/hope it helps prevent injuries.

    When marathon training last fall it was more core, now that I'm not running as much, we are doing more strength and my legs (among other things) are getting stronger which is of course also helpful in running (and, ahem, running faster!).

    I won't say foam roller since you don't want us to :) You could get a person massage you, that might be nice .... But what helps me prevent ITB pain is adductor/abductor exercises (think Jane Fonda). When those muscles are weaker I get pain, when I work them out regularly I tend not to.

  6. My physical therapist told me that there was no way, straight up, that I'd get through the training and the marathon if I didn't get to the gym and do strength.
    You need to make your ass and your hamstrings strong, so that you're not relying on your quads for push, and therefore putting strain on your IT Band which rides along the edge of your quad and then wraps under your kneecap.
    I've always been good at running uphill, but I noticed once I started going to the gym that my glutes and hamstrings were WAY stronger, which meant that I could go faster. Uphill. Jigga WHA?

    I WILL tell you that you have to do it.
    I'll also tell you that rest is a good way to make the ITB pain stop.
    And that Runners' World's Build a Better Body plan is what I used the whole time I was training, and it was awesome and it never took me more than an hour at the gym. I'll email it to you if you want. :)

  7. Core training helps me with a couple aspects. I have a two degenerative disks that got diagnosed once I lost a bunch of weight and started running. It knocked me out of running for 3 months while I dealt with it. It's also likely to keep me from running longer than a half marathon, as my body seems to shut down at 14 miles. But before the core training, I could only do a 10k... So there's that. The second thing is that I do a body bar class at my local rec center. I enjoy doing sprint tris and cross training on a bike (also an attempt to help give my back more recovery time from running on concrete). The leg work moved my bike time from 4 minute miles to 3 minute miles, and occasionally, when I'm really on my game just under 3 minutes. :-)

    But it also changed the shape of my body. I have more defined arms and shoulders now. I also have thicker thighs, which makes me cringe, even though I know it's overall a good thing. Before strength training I was 33 percent body fat. Now I'm 21 percent body fat at the low end of the "normal" range for my height.

    Overall, the strength training and core workouts give my body another chance to recover from running as I get older (just hit 35). I also had to reassess my running goals. Rather than trying to run further and faster, I've decided to focus on wanting to run -- forever. This takes time and patience, but it does tend to get rid of a lot of frustration.

    As for the IT band issues, I had them when I was heavier. Now I have glute issues. The foam roller is so totally the friend you hate to love, as are physical therapy and doing injury specific stretching. A specialized sports medicine massage can be helpful, as is strengthening your inner thighs (usually IT band issues are because of an imbalance in muscle strength between your inner and outer thigh). Might I suggest roller skating because it works those areas a lot more... as do a number of pilates movements.

    Good luck!

  8. This is all absolutely AMAZING advice. I love hearing about what's working for you, even if it means more work for me. Thank you SO MUCH. Keep it coming!

  9. Yup - I have put core/strength training in as an integral part of training now. The core strength helps my posture and keeps me in better form through my runs. My back and shoulders are stronger - which helps a great deal. Plus, the fat burning (which has helped me lose weight) is also taking pressure off my joints, etc.

    A friend of mine and I just started a new 30 day challenge - the new Jillian RIPPED video. It's a 30 minute strength workout to do each day, and there are 4 workouts - one for each week of the 30 day plan. It's kind of fun, and not a huge time commitment. But great for building in strength training! I also highly recommend Jillian's 30 day shred - it got me started in my strength routine!!!!

  10. CRAP, I spent a long time writing out a comment and then it got lost when the page reloaded for me to enter the password to prove I'm not a spambot.

    Oh well. Summary: I go through periods where I eschew the ancillary work (strength training, core work), but then I get injured and it occurs to me that it's because I wasn't paying attention to muscle imbalances and weaknesses.

    Core work doesn't do more to make you a faster runner than MILES do. But when you get injured, your base is compromised and you lose out on the opportunity to build on your speed. Thus, indirectly, perhaps strength training/core work does make you a faster runner... if for no other reason than for the probable injury shield it provides.

    Now I strength train 3x per week and do core work on the other days, purely out of injury fear.

  11. Huh. I was genuinely hoping that SOMEONE would tell me I could get away without this stuff. Drat.

  12. GAH. I had a huge long comment that blogger ate. Grrrr.

    Short version:

    IT band: Yes, you need to use the foam roller. It'll build character.

    Strength training: Not necessary, but really helps. I did strength training in place of running for a year while an injury healed, and when I came back I very quickly became faster than before I got hurt (once my cardio system caught up with my legs). Work on glutes, hamstrings and hips - those'll give you the most bang for your buck in re: speed and injury prevention.

    For core work, the most beneficial core work is deep core stuff - transverse abdominals, pelvic floor, multifidi (deep lower back muscles). Those hold your pelvis in place while you run, giving you a super-stable center to push off from. This is a good thing. Basically, kegels are good for running.

    Can you get away without this stuff? Sure! Tons of people do! Will you notice a positive difference if you do it? Yeah, probably. Tons of people do.

  13. you def can not. well i can not. i focused a lot of arms/abs and upper body and really got stronger last season. i was faster/more apt to swing my arms and my form definitely improved (with conscious effort as well). i think it helped me most at the end of the longer runs when i was exhausted.

    i think leg work and rolling my IT band has lessened any knee pain i used to get. I enjoy strength and can get away with 2-3 30 min sessions with 1 being part of my after long run stretching session!