Top 6 Exercises That Runners Don’t Need To Do In The Gym!

Runners and triathletes have specialized STRENGTH needs that differ from the the sedentary person that is going to the gym in search of “that burn” or just needs to get into shape for summer.   The average person or athlete that trains for a non endurance sport needs a much different STRENGTH program than that of an endurance athlete.   It drives me absolutely crazy to see endurance athletes jump into these silly metabolic, barre, or boot camp classes for STRENGTH gains.  Runners and triathletes do anywhere from four to twenty hours of weekly aerobic/conditioning based activities.   Do you really think that runners/triathletes need anymore of this when you go to the gym for your STRENGTH training?  Below are my top 6 STRENGTH TRAINING ERRORS made by endurance athletes when they go to the gym for STRENGTH.

1.   Burpees: (high reps for conditioning)

Do we really need to be jumping onto the floor and getting back up again in hopes of raising our heart rate and creating a tough challenge?   It would be a much better use of time by spending this time lifting some weights.  The primary goal of squat thrusts or burpees is for conditioning purposes and not for STRENGTH building.  The exercises and movements that we do in the gym need to be dedicated to activities that help to build STRENGTH and not replicate the exercise stress of our endurance events.

2.  Light weight lower body: (body weight or light weight high reps squatting and lunging)

We spend so much of our time on our feet with the repetition of running and are constantly moving our own body weight around unloaded.  There is just no need for body weight exercises on the lower body when our primary goal is to gain lower body STRENGTH.   This lower body STRENGTH  that we are in search of in the gym should be a complimentary STRENGTH that helps to enhance our running.  Once again, we don’t need to replicate the same unloaded movements that we are doing for between 4-20 hours a week in our endurance activities.  We need to load up the squat bar, pick up some heavy kettlebells, or move some heavier loads with that lower body.   This will help to achieve our goal of building STRENGTH while at the gym.

3.  Battling ropes:  (high rep conditioning sets)

The primary goal of battling ropes is for conditioning purposes and can serve as a GREAT tool for the sedentary individual in search of that washboard stomach for summer.  That being said, endurance athletes are already getting a ton of aerobic and anaerobic system stimulus each week in your regular training programs.  Traditional fitness programs are filled with daily rope intervals to kick up the intensity in their workouts.  This exercise stimulus closely resembles that of the speed work sessions that you may already be doing on the roads and track on a normal weekly basis.  Therefore if you goal is to be building STRENGTH while in the gym then you will be missing the mark on spending too much time on this one.

4.  Sled pushes:  (sled pushes for conditioning)

Another great fitness tool that trainers/coaches utilize all across the fitness planet is that of the SLED!   It is a FABULOUS tool for both STRENGTH and conditioning purposes in our general populations.   Where trainers go wrong with our endurance athletes is that the sled is systematically misused and not applied correctly to meet the needs of the endurance athlete.   The sled is either weighted too light or placed incorrectly into the workouts.

5.   Single joint range of motion exercises:  (isolation bicep and tricep exercises)

With busy training schedules it’s super important that as endurance athletes we need to be efficient as possible with our gym time.  Spending time focusing on single joint range of motion exercises does not fit the bill.  Everything that we do in competition requires full body coordination, stability, and STRENGTH.  Although standing in front of the mirror and cranking out bicep curls may be aesthetically pleasing to you it just doesn’t have much carryover to sport.  Focusing on complex or full body movements will be a much more productive use of time and carryover more directly to your running, riding, and swimming.

6.  Machine based exercises:  

In the 70’s machine STRENGTH training was popularized with the bodybuilding boom.  When we use machines for our STRENGTH we completely remove the stability element from our training.  With endurance events stability plays a huge role in our sport and can be simultaneously challenged with our strength by doing activities while on our feet.   STRENGTH exercises that resemble the movement patterns of our sport are going be much more efficient and have far more carryover to our competitive events.

7.  BONUS:  HIIT Training or METABOLIC strength workouts:

This one here is a HUGE ERROR that is made by endurance athletes all across the land all the time. Light weight high rep training with short recoveries, although a great option for the sedentary population is just not appropriate in large doses for endurance athletes.  Repetition ranges over 12-15 reps or timed sets of 45 seconds or more with short 15 second recoveries will not achieve the STRENGTH goals that you are in search of.  These types of workouts are geared for folks that don’t do any ancillary cardio and need a STRENGTH/cardio mix to complete their exercise needs.  For endurance athletes the goal of the gym is for STRENGTH as we will achieve our cardio goals in our regular training.  Drop the conditioning workouts for more true STRENGTH based workouts.

In the article above I have attempted to give aspiring endurance athletes the guidance that you will need to either fine your STRENGTH routine or change to one that will meet your endurance goals more efficiently.  Our sport is very demanding and having a STRENGTH program that compliments our sport is essential towards injury freedom, consistency, and performance at our highest levels.  Get to the gym and get STRONG!

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10 tips to RUNNING at your BEST!!

1. Set tangible goals:  One of the BIGGEST errors that I see is when runners set goals that are just out of their reach in the current season and too ambitious for current fitness levels. What this does is sets up a training block where expectations are lofty and when they are not met in the early season it sets a negative tone for upcoming training and races.  It’s critical to develop early season confidence which can be applied throughout the training block as things begin to ramp up and peak races soon approach.  Setting reachable goals is an integral part of building the confidence necessary to be as consistent as possible while executing a long grinding training plan.

2.  Have a plan:  Once your seasonal goals have been established it will be time to get your plan together.  Whether you hire a professional coach or make up the plan yourself it will be an essential element to you reaching your goals.  Your plan should consist of a strategic approach to training with progressive workouts and long runs that gently prepare you for your peak races.   It will be key that your plan takes into account your personal and professional life and has a balance that will allow you to navigate through your life and keep training consistently through the peak of the season.

3.  Be flexible:  Your running and life will not always go exactly how you may be expecting it to go.  Be prepared to make the necessary adjustments to your plan and your life to allow for you to be successful.  Athletes that get too rigid in following their plan will likely end up getting frustrated and fall off track when things don’t go exactly to plan.  The best plans are those that change to meet the ups and downs of your regular life.  A solid running and life balance will be the key to your longevity as a runner.

4.  Be disciplined/patient:   Your fitness takes time to build or prime and a slow burn approach is much preferred to a get results NOW strategy.  Your physiology is very complex and your body’s energy systems prefer to be developed in a preferred order.  Now this can differ from athlete to athlete but there are some concepts that remain constant from runner to runner.  For example we know that racing too often in your base phase is a bad idea and can compromise high level gains later in the season.

5.  Run practice races:  Another HUGE error that I see is where we have runners (especially marathon runners) that think that they don’t need to race in preparation for their peak marathon events.   Running and racing fast is a skill that must be refined and practiced in order to be sharp.  The seasonal races that you put into your schedule serve multiple purposes and are very important components to any successful season.  We must practice the race type intensity many times in order to be able to call on this skill on race day.  Without this experience athletes are likely to fall short of expectations in those big events at the end of the season.

6.  Always listen to your body:   This concept will be one of the most important of all in keeping you injury free, on the roads running, and crushing all of your goals.  There is a time to follow your running program and there’s a time to alter the plan to fit your needs.  When your body is telling you that it needs a break or it it can’t handle the prescribed workout, you better LISTEN!  Sometimes it’s best to sneak in that extra day off or to bypass your weekly speed work session in favor of an easy run.  Give yourself that extra day and pick right up where you left off.

7.  Strength Train:  It’s essential to have a complimentary strength program for the demands of all of your running miles.   A proper strength program that is designed for runners will be an important component in keeping you injury free and consistent in your training.   As we run and race our running muscles get fatigued and break down in the latter miles.  Some extra support, stability, and strength will be crucial for that finishing kick and completing those quality long run miles.  Rep ranges in the 3-8 range will be optimal for enhancing power and creating strength gains that will directly translate to your running.

8.  Taper correctly:  The process of tapering is one that is constantly used incorrectly by runners all across the land.  In many cases we miss that sweet spot and either taper too much or not enough.  Now, we must consider that all athletes are not the same and each will respond differently to various tapering methods.  At some points of the season we won’t even taper, others will require just a short reduction in volume, and then the marathon will require more.  I have found a huge benefit in having athletes for many consecutive seasons as this lets me learn how each individual responds to different tapering methods.  Once we get this formula down we can count on consistent performances on race day each time out.

9.  Value your base phase:  For some reason so many athletes (Whitney Earnest) think that the base phase is less important than other phases of training.   When in reality the base phase is probably the most important part of every training block.  This 6-8 week block lays a critical foundation for all of the other training elements that will follow.   Establishing that aerobic base while growing your mitochondria and preparing your musculosketal system for the demands of faster running happens here.

10.  Know your current fitness:  With the birth of every new season come goals, expectations, and dreams.  Whether your season is focused on the 5k or the marathon there will be a significant commitment made and goals to achieve. In order to construct the right plan, keep on track, and not over train it will be essential to know your current fitness to start the season and as it progresses.  So many folks just guess on their fitness or use grandiose goals to gauge training intensities.  When we do this it’s very likely that we will be training too fast, too much, too early in the season.  Your training program must start where you are at and work towards where you want to go.  It must be progressive and match the needs of your physiological systems.  To get that big bang on peak race day takes patience and persistence and most of all TIME!

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