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Strength training for distance running

If there is one benefit to this year’s admittedly moody weather, it’s the unique training conditions. In endurance sports, challenges arise especially during severe weather conditions, be it extreme cold or sudden, unexpected heat. This is especially true for those like me who are not born runners. I am far from someone you’d typically associate with great athleticism or a knack for the sport I enjoy most frequently: endurance running. I am heavy-footed, I have low lung capacity, and, even though petite when compared to the national average, I am still somewhat heavy for someone who trains for ultra distances. Like most of us, I lose shape quickly, struggle with mechanics, and, although I have been running steadily for 3 years now, am still learning about the running style that best suits my physique and capacity. I have had my fair share of injuries, and have found that strength training, along with common sense, which sometimes eludes me, is an effective way to build the musculature to support prolonged effort.

One of the many challenges endurance runners face has to do with efficiency. Efficiency pertains to compact, smart mechanics, maximally high low weight to sustain speed and duration of effort, and nutrition managed to accommodate increasingly lasting work outs. Of these, mechanics efficiency has been the greatest predictor of injuries in my life. My range of lateral motion tends to be exaggerated; my midfoot strike is easily replaced by a mindless heel strike, and, as a result, my bursae and tendons suffer.

I have therefore spent a fair amount of time focusing on areas of physical shortcomings that to a great degree permit this mechanical inefficiency. Surprisingly. I now tend to think of occasional failures at endurance running as indicative of upper body and core weakness rather than instability in my quads and calves. ALthough all muscle groups benefit greatly from measured strength training in endurance running, my legs tend to be naturally strong. The shoulder, neck, and arm fatigue that so often plagued my runs had to do with inadequate muscle building in torso.

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These days, I make sure that I lift at least 4 times a week. And while bulk inhibits motion and additional weight is hard to carry around for miles, well-adjusted weight training is key to building strength and stability during motion. Today’s workout involved 5 miles of heat training (running) in 86 degrees (just the beginning of heat training and barely fitting the standard!), followed by extensive core, shoulder, biceps, triceps, back, and chest weight training. The weights routine was time consuming (about 2.5 hours), but I allotted time for increased breaks between sets as the weight increased.

 

Critically, muscle mass can be naturally built on a vegan diet. Mind you, my protein intake is probably below what one might say it needs to be given my levels of activity. And yet, I feel strong, energetic, I have developed greater stability and linearity in motion, and am looking forward to even better progress as I am getting back into a regular routine.

 

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