Last Updated on November 21, 2013 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
It feels so AMAZING to get back to training…even if my fitness levels are far from where they were/where I hoped they would be today, 19 days from race day. Regardless, training for this race has been a blast, and I’m finding myself stronger than I’ve ever been in my entire life. I love running, don’t get me wrong. But running alone mainly focuses on only one area of fitness – cardiovascular endurance.
I’ve heard many, many runners complaining about how they simply can’t find the balance between strength training and running. If they spend an hour in the gym lifting weights for the day, they feel they’ve lost significant mileage for the week. So why not combine the two? Believe me, I love the gym as much as the next person, but it is simply not necessary. You can gain speed, strength, AND endurance using nothing more than your own body and the great outdoors.
Plus it’s a ton of fun.
Set your watch for a specific interval. Ten minutes, half a mile, whatever you want to do. After a warm up…RUN. This is “high intensity” interval training (HIIT), so do not be afraid to push yourself. When you hit the set interval (using a watch with an alert/alarm is ideal!) stop and perform a set of plyometric or body weight exercises, such as:
And while no equipment is necessary, you can use mother nature to your advantage. Grab a rock or a log and carry it for half a mile, or use it to add weight to your squats, lunges, or sit ups. Find a downed tree or large rock (make sure it’s stable!) and perform plyo jumps on it, or use it for decline push ups (or incline if you are a beginner!) or tricep dips.
Running urban and not trail? Use park benches, picnic tables, curbs, or concrete barriers instead (just make sure you are safely out of the way of passing bikes/pedestrians/traffic!).
I love to tell my clients (and repeat to myself on these training sessions) to learn to “get comfortable with being uncomfortable”. HIIT typically alternates high bursts of exercise with lower intensity activity. So on a run like this, you can pick and choose your poison. Burpees are hard, so do a set of those sandwiched between two intervals of easy running. A plank is excellent for core strength and muscular endurance, but often does not increase the heart rate significantly, so use that as your “break” between two intervals of a hard run. These types of workouts are certainly not easy, but they produce results.
At the end of the workout, sure you may not have gotten in the “mileage” you have hoped for..but instead you have gotten in a full body workout AND a little bit of mileage. On our run the other night, we covered 4 miles of trail in one hour. We also incorporated body weight exercises for all of our major muscle groups as well as plyometric bursts for speed, as well as core and balance exercises.
Heather Hart is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), UESCA certified Ultrarunning Coach, RRCA certified Running Coach, co-founder of Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching, and creator of this site, Relentless Forward Commotion. She is a mom of two teen boys, and has been running and racing distances of 5K to 100+ miles for over a decade. Heather has been writing and encouraging others to find a love for fitness and movement since 2009.