The successful runner requires whole body fitness. You can use running as the specific training for running which gives cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance for the legs.
It is important to keep the rest of your body in the best possible condition also. Cross training is a way of training using other types of exercise to aid in the aerobic conditioning necessary for running.
Supplemental training means adding training techniques to those that are specific to running to develop and maintain the rest of the body and prevent injury. The totally fit person incurs fewer injuries, performs better and more efficiently.
The supplemental techniques discussed here will be stretching, abdominal strengthening and circuit weight training. The last two techniques use endurance methods which give muscular endurance as well as muscular strength.
Economy is a measure of a successful training program. Economy of running has been found to correlate with running technique. Economic runners showed smaller changes in mechanical energy during running stride and a greater degree of energy transfer between the body parts. This allows the body to use the energy available with less energy consumption by the involved muscles. One of the most important factors in this concept is flexibility. This is because lack of flexibility restricts the range of motion and may limit the extent of energy transfers. We will not discuss biomechanics of running, but hope to impress upon you the need for flexibility.
Muscles contain receptors called spindles and Golgi tendon organs that provide sensory information regarding changes in the length and tension of the muscle. The main function of the spindles is to respond to stretch in a muscle and, through reflex action, initiate a stronger contraction to reduce this stretch. The stretch reflex mainly responds to voluntary movements and maintains upright posture. Impulses from the Golgi tendon organs cause reflex relaxation of the muscle and its opposing muscle. When the actual stretch occurs, the spindles resist the stretch. If the stretch is held longer than 6 seconds, the Golgi tendon organs respond allowing the muscle to reflexively relax. This lengthens the muscle and allows it to remain in a stretched position for a long period reducing the possibility of injury due to the stretching.
The purpose of a stretching program is to relax the muscle and work it through the necessary range of motion. Stretching the muscle at the wrong time or in the wrong way can activate the stretch reflex causing the muscle to contract and become tighter rather than relaxed. Thus, we do not suggest stretching before running when the muscles are cold and tight. Stretching at this time has been shown to lead to injury rather than helping to prevent it. Stretching should be done only after the muscle is warmed up. This may be after a 5 to 10 minute walk or slow jog that should be the beginning of your workout. After the workout may be OK, if you've done a cool down session of gentle exercise. The best suggestion is to set aside some time 3 days per week for your supplemental training which should include a warm up, the main exercises (i.e. circuit weight program) and then 10 to 15 minutes of gentle stretching. The stretching can always be done more often than this. Many runners find a gentle stretching and relaxation program helpful before bedtime.
Stretching is done to relax the muscles and connective tissues. The connective tissue needs 20 seconds to relax and the muscles take about 2 minutes to relax, most of the stretching that is done actually is working on the connective tissue. The stretch should be done slowly and carefully to the point of slight pull or slight discomfort. It should not be painful! Bouncing and pushing to the point of pain can activate the stretch reflex negating the purpose of stretching and risking injury. Stretching is not a competitive sport. Flexibility differs with the individual. Your goal should be to achieve a good level of flexibility for you, not match anyone else's level.
The stretching program set out here was developed by our friend and physical therapist, Jim Weggenman of Willamette Physical Therapy. Jim has rehabilitated a large number of athletes and runners including Patti. He suggests that these stretches be done to prevent injury and to provide freedom of movement for better performance.
He uses a system called proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, more easily called the "hold-relax" method of stretching which involves a contraction of the muscle followed by a relaxation and a stretch. The tightening "fools" the stretch reflex, activating the Golgi tendon organ. This acts to start relaxing the muscle before the actual stretch begins and allows you to stretch the muscle further.
In all of the stretches the contractions are done by tightening the muscle, not actually moving it. The more you run, the stronger and tighter the muscles of the lower back and the entire backs of the legs become. The first three stretches are for these muscles.
Other muscles frequently tight in runners, particulary those doing speed work or hill training are the hip flexors in the fronts of the legs and the adductors in the inside of the thighs.
Other safe and useful stretches can be found in Judy Alter's Surviving Exercise. This book also tells you stretches and exercises to avoid for safety's sake.
Low back pain and problems usually result from a combination of tight lower back muscles and a lack of abdominal muscle strength. The abdominals work to maintain correct posture and to generate intra-abdominal pressure. This pressure results when the muscle walls around the abdominal cavity are contracted. It helps to support the upper body by taking some of the pressure off the spine. The muscles that need strengthening are the muscles that are diagonally placed around the abdomen. When abdominal exercises are done incorrectly, the hip flexors may be used making the exercise inefficient in strengthening the proper muscles. Abdominal fitness leads to good posture, a must for endurance training and marathoning. This also helps to alleviate low back problems in the rest of your daily activities.
The following series of abdominal conditioning exercises are a fairly standard progression recommended by physical therapists and used by Patti in the exercise classes she teaches.
For those with little or no abdominal strength. Uses the lower abdominal to tilt pelvis.
To understand weight training, you must know some of the basic terminology of exercise and weight training.
The key to endurance weight training or circuit weight training is performing a number of circuits of many repetitions using low weights. As a contrast a strength program usually consists of 1-3 sets of 8-10 reps of heavy weight for each muscle group. The endurance method has 3-7 circuits of 20-30 reps/set with low weights for each exercise. One study of strength training versus endurance training showed that endurance training resulted in increased muscle strength and endurance as well as maintaining and developing aerobic enzymes in the muscles exercised. The strength training developed strength, but endurance and aerobic muscle enzymes were reduced. The benefits of endurance training include general shaping and toning of the body. Endurance weight training usually does not build big muscle mass. Other benefits are maintenance of body weight and maintenance or reduction of the per cent of body fat. This training can be useful to prevent injury or to rehabilitate after injury. Endurance weight training can be used for cardiovascular training by adding a set of 5 minutes of stationary bicycling or running in place in every circuit. This type of training is often referred to as super circuit training. For runners, this component is usually not necessary.
Weight training can be done with several different kinds of equipment. Free weights such as barbells, dumbbells, ankle and wrist weights or machines such as Universal and Nautilus can be used to great benefit. The program shown here will include instructions for each exercise using inexpensive free weights. A set of dumbbells costs between $10-15 and a set of ankle weights costs about the same. For between $20 and $30, you can have enough equipment at home for a beneficial supplemental training program.
During the marathon some of the major fatigue problems occur in the upper body because most runners neglect the training of this area. Arm movement plays an important role in running and follows leg movement. Opposite arms and legs are synchronized in the running stride. The arms absorb reaction from the thrust of the legs. Since action and reaction are interchangeable, arm action may be able to speed up leg action. This action can be useful in running uphill and, more importantly, in maintaining form the last miles of the marathon. When your legs are dragging, you may be able to use your arm movements to lengthen your stride or speed up your leg movement.
Specific exercises will be shown for the following muscles or muscle groups:
Bench Press: pectorals, deltoids, triceps and Latissimus dorsi.
Lie with back flat, you can bend your knees to keep back flat. Grip dumbbells, barbell or bench press apparatus with overhand grip shoulder width apart. Lift straight up and then lower back to original position. This lift requires a "spotter". A spotter is someone to assist you if you become "out of control" or are in danger of dropping the weight which could land on you in this case.
Dumbbell Flys: pectorals, deltoids and Latissimus dorsi.
Lay on back, start with arms extended holding dumbbells up in the air over the face with palms facing. Bring arms down to the sides with wrists cocked and elbows bent 5-10 degrees to relieve stress on the elbow and wrist joints. Return dumbbells to starting position.
Side Lateral Raises: upper back and rear deltoids.
Stand erect with your feet about shoulder's width apart. Bend slightly forward at the waist. Hold dumbbells in front of groin area with palms toward each other. Keep elbows and wrists slightly bent. Raise dumbbells with palms down straightening the arms, raise to shoulder height. Return to starting position.
Bent Lateral Raises: upper back and rear deltoids.
Stand with knees slightly bent, feet shoulder's width apart. Lean forward, hang arms directly below shoulders with palms facing (see left). Bend arms slightly and raise dumbbells upwards and sideways until level with shoulders (see right). Return to starting position.
Triceps Dumbbell Press: triceps.
Hold dumbbell and arm overhead with wrists locked. The raised arm can be supported with the other hand by holding it at the elbow, armpit or triceps, but does not need to be. Lower the weight behind the head until it touches the shoulder and return to the starting position.
Single Arm Dumbbell Rowing: triceps.
Rest knee on bench. Grasp dumbbell and extend arm downward (see left). Pull up in straight line toward waist (see right). Return to starting position, similar to sawing.
Triceps Kickouts: triceps.
Take a runner's stance resting one arm on the forward knee. Arm with dumbbell should have elbow bent. Bring elbow up, then extend arm backwards until level with shoulder. Hold for 5 to 10 counts. Return to starting position.
Grip barbell or dumbbells with an underhanded grip shoulder width apart in either a sitting or standing position. Raise bar or dumbbells to chest and return to starting position. Stand with heels 6 to 8 inches from the wall, bend knees and flatten back against wall to protect the back, do not use back muscles to lift the weight.
Exercise will be given for the major groups of muscles in the lower legs. You are already training these muscles, but a little weight training gives even more strength and endurance.
Leg Extensions: quadriceps group.
These can be done with ankle weights or using a leg extension device on a machine Start in a sitting position, lift the legs onto a horizontal position. Lower only 15 degrees and return to the horizontal. Doing this exercise through the full range of motion is hazardous to the knee. By working only through 15 degrees, the knee is protected from undue stress and the quadriceps are worked. This exercise can also be done by sliding forward on the chair and lifting the straight leg to the horizontal position.
Leg Flexions or Curls: hamstrings group.
Lie on bench with knees off the pad. Bring up the legs with the ankle weights, weight shoe or the bar on the machine. Lower to the starting position.
Side Leg Raises: adductors, abductors and secondarily both quads and hamstrings.
Excellent for helping knee stability while running. Lie on the floor on your side with lower arm under your head. Support your weight with your other hand.
Bring top leg over and put foot on floor at hip level. Raise lower leg vertically keeping it straight.
Raise leg vertically.
Raise both legs together.
The following are the four steps to starting a program.
Run The Planet thanks Patti & Warren Finke and Team Oregon for the permission to reprint the complete online version of the first edition of the book Marathoning Start to Finish (Hypertext Version 1.02) by Patti & Warren Finke. © 1986, 1996 wY'east Consulting, All Rights reserved.