Sunday, 25 March 2012

In The Gym

Many runners don't go to the gym. I do because I enjoy it - and also because I believe that for endurace sport you need to have good all round conditioning.

When you are running a marathon for example - you've got to carry your head for starters! And your arms are working all the time and all your core stability muscles. This is important because when you start to tire it doesn't just make you run more slowly, it also makes you run badly. So you'll start to roll more, get more side to side movement, lose some forward momentum, alter your body position - and all of this transmits down through hips, thighs, knees all the way to feet.

Basically deteriorating form leads to injury because things won't be moving in their usual plane.

But of course a bit of general gym training won't really help with that. And that's the problem people encounter with loads of gyms and even some personal trainers. They've been on a course, but don't really understand how it all works and how to make training in a gym specific for a particular sport or activity. So everyone gets the same general workout give or take a few tweaks - and it gets boring and, after a short period of improvement, fails to make any difference.

I should at this stage dispel a particular myth: "I don't go to the gym because I don't want to build big muscles and become muscle bound". I've got news for you - you won't!!
People spend hours, weeks and years of their lives actually trying to build muscle - and they don't end up looking like a body builder.

I should also tell you that virtually all elite athletes DO go to the gym. You would be astonished how much weight slim, wiry athletes and cyclists can lift. Often far more than people twice their weight - I've seen britain's leading professional cyclist from the 1980's and 90's shift staggering weights, and leading international female long distance runners do the same.

At my own gym I have the privilege and insight to train with world champion boxers such as Johnny Nelson, Junior Witter, the up and coming Kell Brooke and Richard Towers - along with Mr Universe winners such as Dave Titterton. And not surprisingly their training differs.
 My routines are more like the boxers in that I concentrate on muscle endurance rather than size. And being older I also concentrate on  developing joint protective muscles around knees and hips in particular - these are real injury preventers. So you will find me doing lots of repetitions with lighter weights, a lot of relative strength work and some strenous core and balance work. But I do train my whole body.

So here is a typical session:
Legs - calf raises 2 sets of 30 reps standing raises with about 120k, vary foot angle and knee bend
         - quad machine 2 sets of 20 reps with approx 50k, vary foot angle to work inner and outer quads. Good knee protection and leg balance
         - hamstring curls 2 sets of 20 reps 40k
         - leg press 2 sets at least of 30 reps with 120k plus. Not full range - stop when glute is engaged and press back. To mimic running action and usage. Some using more heel and some using more toe. Heel work also develops shins and helps protect a very common endurance problem area
        - single leg press full range 2 sets of 20 reps with 50 to 60k
        - both adductor and abductor on machines (hip area and glutes - good for stability) 2 sets 20 reps with weight I can manage. I'm still developing these as they were an area of weakness. Really helped with my running.

General - chest press (bench press type movement) 1 set 20 reps 40k
             - shoulder press 1 set 20 reps 15k dumbells
             - shoulder fly 1 set 20 reps 7.5k dumbells
             - lateral pulldowns 1 set 20 reps 50k
             - triceps pushdown 1 set 20 reps 15k
             - biceps curl 1 set 20 reps 15k dumbells
             - forearm curl 1 set 20 reps 12.5k bar or machine (same as bicep but with overhand grip)

Relative strength - pull ups/chins - 5-10 reps overhand wide grip; 5-10 underhand grip
                            - dips - 2 sets of 5-10 reps
(relative strength is important for endurance work and is a real measure of your fitness and strength. Can you shift your own body weight? It also tells you about your weight and conditioning. The number of reps you can do is affected by even slight changes in body weight)

Core and abs/trunk - leg raises in a captains chair with a 5k dumbell held by feet - 3 sets, target 40 reps minimum over the 3 sets
                               - crunches - straight and slight twist to each side - 100 reps of each
                               - lying on front - body raises - approx 50 reps. It's important to strengthen your lower back as this holds you up. And also so that ab work does not un-balance you by tightening your front only.

Then some general stretching - hamstrings, calves, glutes, quads, back, inner quads, hips. I also do this at home in front of the tv.

Very happy to go into more detail if anyone wants. And if you're ever in Sheffield why not come to the gym with me and we can look at some work to help you specifically?

I do vary this - I use equipment avaialable, so might do a similar exercise on a different  machine, I vary the order, and sometimes I'll throw in some heavier weights. Surprise your muscles - otherwise they get used to your routine and the benefit diminishes.

I will do this 4 times a week work permitting. Following most sessions I will deliberately run for at least 4 miles straight afterwards. I'll tell you why next week! In the meantime - go on, get signed up and get a decent routine sorted. You know you want to really .....

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