One of the biggest mistakes runners make!
This is an article aimed at all different types of runners, including casual weekend joggers, competitive runners, first timers, right up to someone looking to run a personal best time in the 10K. It will include one of the most overlooked aspects of running, why you need to do it and how to implement it today to improve your performance.
Runners are Insane
I’ve spoken to many runners over the years who have said that they want to improve their running distance and/or time, so I’ve asked them, “how are you planning on doing that?” and 99% of the time the answer I get back is “I’m going to run more.” I try not to smile and shake my head even though I have heard this hundreds of times, and it’s usually from the people who have been running for years and already hit the pavement 4+ times per week. A much smarter man than you or I called Albert Einstein talked about insanity in this way: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Now I am not calling you insane, but just read this paragraph again whilst having that quote in your mind. You are now probably smiling to yourself!
The Law of Accommodation
“This is a manifestation of the biological law of accommodation, often considered a general law of biology.” According to this law, the response of a biological object to a given constant stimulus decreases over time. Thus, accommodation is the decrease in response of your body to a constant continued stimulus. In training, the stimulus is physical exercise. (Zatsiorsky 1995)
Above is how Vladimir Zatsiorsky PhD defines the Law of Accommodation. Now I don’t want this article to get too scientific and stuffy, so basically what he is saying is the training version of what Einstein said in the previous paragraph. If you do the same thing over and over again, you will not get any better at it, you may even get worse! So runners, you need a new stimulus to continue to make progress.
So what should you do?
Well, when I’m asked how improvements should be made and my response is “back off of the running and get in the gym,” the facial expressions I receive are priceless. You may not believe me at the moment, and on the surface it may not make much sense, but stay with me.
We all probably agree that the most important muscles for running are the glutes, hamstrings, and calves. Quadriceps are also important, but are often mistaken for being the most important group over the others, which causes people to train them a lot more and neglect the other three aforementioned muscles, which will also hinder your progress. Just think to yourself, why is it that when people are going all out in a run or sprint do they get hamstring pulls/tears and very rarely quadriceps problems? It’s because the hamstrings are being pushed the hardest! So when almost all runners can name the muscles that are being used while running, why don’t they consider strengthening these muscles? It seems crazy to me that this isn’t most people’s first thought.
It’s time to get strong!
Maximal strength is the most strength that a muscle or group of muscles can exert in one go; an example of this is a 1 rep max in the squat or deadlift (watch a powerlifting event to see this in action if you’re not sure). So if that is a maximal contraction of the muscle(s) then if you think about it, every step you take whilst running is a sub-maximal contraction, so the higher your maximal strength is the less each step of a run will take out of you. So if you have two runners where everything is exactly the same such as age, height, weight, running experience, technique, etc., but one has a max deadlift of 50kg and the other has a max of 150kg who is going to win? That’s right the stronger runner will win, because they are much stronger in the right muscles. So if it’s for distance, each step will take less out of their strength reserves, so they can go on for longer; or if it’s for time, they will be able to use a lot more force in each step, so will leave a trail of dust in the face of the weaker athlete.
So now that you know the reasoning, what exercises should you be doing?
I am now going to give you some ideas on which exercises would be beneficial for you to do to improve your running performance. I’m not going to go really in-depth into sets, reps, and how to program them all in, as that would be an entire article in itself. However, I will give you some guidelines with this. Core strength is very important as well, so Planks have made it onto my list and should be done regularly.
The Big Ones
For the big exercises I recommend the Barbell Back Squat and both the Conventional and Sumo Stance Deadlifts. For a simple guide, go for 3-5 sets of 3-5 repetitions in these exercises.
The Smaller Ones
Bulgarian Split Squats, Reverse Lunges, Hamstring Curls, Calf Raises and Planks. For a simple guide, go for higher repetitions on these so somewhere between 6-15 reps for 3 sets, go for sets of time for the Plank.
If you are unsure on how to perform any of these, then a quick YouTube search can help, or you can contact me for my guidance.
As you can see, it isn’t a massive list of exercises and I’m not telling you to be in the gym for 2 hours a night 5 times per week, but if you dedicate yourself to twice per week and getting stronger on these exercises, your running performance will improve!
If you would like more information on this subject or are interested in Personal Training sessions, Nutritional Coaching or Online Training packages, then reach out to me.
Disclaimer: Consult your Doctor/Physician before starting any exercise program. I am not recommending any exercises; this is just what I have used on myself and/or my clients. If you feel any pain, shortness of breath, dizziness or anything out of the ordinary then stop immediately and visit your Doctor. All exercise programs are performed at your own risk.