Principles for Designing the Best Workout

I had a good running friend for a time who dedicated at least an hour a day, five days per week to her sport.  She ran marathons but couldn’t do a push up.  She ran through snow and air quality alerts to stay consistent, but had no core strength.  Before long she started to develop injuries, but while she was going strong the paradox baffled me. How could someone work so diligently but not really be fit?

The answer is lack of variety.  While running is extremely beneficial to your overall health, the best athletes do more than just run the same routine every day.  Instead, they make it a point to mix up their running and go to the gym to work on their core strength and overall fitness.

Here are a few principles you can bring with you to the gym in order to design a workout that will keep you going stronger, longer, and faster.

1. Achieve A Goal

One of the best things you can do to keep yourself motivated in your running and strength training workouts is to track your progress.  This used to be a pen and paper affair but a bunch of new fitness apps have been created to hold you accountable and allow you to see your progress on a smart phone if you wish.  However you do it, make goals for yourself and congratulate yourself when you see what you have achieved.

2. Variety is Essential

Whether you’re in the gym or running long distances, your body adapts to everything you do.  It gets used to specific ranges of motion and exercises, and can even get tired of the same ole’ same ole.  Mixing up your workout routine not only helps prevent burnout, but it  broaden your physical capabilities overall and helps make you a better, stronger athlete.

3. The Importance of Balance

Balance is crucial to everything you do.  For every exercise there is a counter exercise.  Every time your work something on your left side, mirror it with the same weight and intensity on your right side.  When you work your biceps you should also work your triceps, and when you do an exercise that builds your biceps, you should also work on your triceps, etc.

4. Rest and Recovery

Too much stress on the body too often can actually weaken your muscles, so take the time to let your body revitalize itself with rest periods.  While it may feel like you’re doing nothing, your body actually repairs and strengthens itself during rest and recovery.  Make sure you’re eating properly, getting enough sleep, and giving yourself some time off to make your next workout that much better.  For runners, it’s often recommended that you go the gym two or three times per week on nonconsecutive days.

5. Consistency is Key

They always say that it takes three days to lose what it took three weeks to train for.  While three days off won’t kill you here and there, if you aren’t consistent then every time you go the gym you start by trying to make up what has been lost on your time off.  Stay consistent and you’ll start to see real results.

6. Workout Length

As a runner you should be able to fit your entire weightlifting regimen into about a half hour.  This should be enough time to cover your most important exercises efficiently without overdoing it.

6. Lighter Load, More Reps

Distance runners rely on their slow twitch muscle fibers.  As a result, lighter load workouts of 12 to 16 repetitions per set will result in the best gains on the open road or long trails.  When you can complete at least two sets of 16 repetitions with proper form, consider increasing your weight by one to five percent.

7. Breathe Properly

As a runner you probably already know the importance of breathing properly.  Holding your breath while working out can restrict your blood flow and cause your blood pressure to rise undesirably.  Breathe on every repetition when lifting weights, exhaling when you lift and inhaling when you lower the weight.

8. Picking the Right Exercises

The best workouts combine strength and resistance training to target the muscle groups or range of movements that are more important to you personally and as a runner.  When designing your workout, be sure to include upper body, lower body, and core exercises to your mix.

Stay tuned for a series of running specific gym workouts designed to increase your power, prevent injuries, and make you faster while improving your running economy.