Runner’s Strengthening Guide
This is a convenient and extremely helpful guide for anyone looking to: ease into running if you’re a beginner, return to running post-injury, build mileage, OR if you just want to keep running and prevent injury! Basically, in short, this guide is for ALL runners. No runner or jogger is exempt from this guide, and it is advised that you consult mine if you want to continue on the path to lifetime running 🙂
Family Medical History
Consult the family history. It is just a good pre-cautionary method for all beginning athletes and runners to know their family’s medical history. Make sure you know of any histories with joint issues, asthma, heart problems, etc. This is just good to clear the air with. Certainly if there are health concerns in the family, be sure to get all this straightened out and cleared with the doctor.
Personal Athletic History
Okay, now that we’ve moved on from that, you’re going to have to examine your own! Besides medical needs, I am talking about your own past injuries, weaknesses, vitamin/health deficiencies such as iron or calcium, nutrition overall, progression of activities, current state of activity, and weekly mileage. These are all areas that need to be examined. So now, I get to break these down a bit.
Your past injuries are VERY important! From a trainer/coach’s point-of-view, we have to evaluate why the athlete became injured in the first place. Was it caused by poor nutrition? Not even strength training? Or was it too much strength training in the wrong areas? Did he or she only run on hard surfaces including concrete and sidewalks? Is the runner involved in outside activites that caused the injury? Overtrain?
YEAH. Identifying the injury is not simple. This is not a one-time trip to the trainer’s office, they diagnose you, and you go home knowing exactly what it is and how to cure it. No way! There can be so many problems, and that’s why it’s extremely important that you make sure to be monitoring any signs of abnormal weaknesses, pains and to examine what you eat and how often you hydrate. More details on this later.
So keep a record of your injuries. Do they all seem similar? Repeated injuries? Probably. And the areas affected may be closely related like hips and knees. Keep records of what the diagnosis was AND the treatment given. Typically, once runners get injured, that injury is likely to happen again if the runner does not keep with the exercises continually, even when you are healthy!
Weaknesses and the Three R’s
This goes with injuries, because you typically become injured if joints/muscles have grown weak or tired. As mentioned earlier, examine your treatment given. If you run on your own and are not choosing to make a doctor’s appointment (which unless it’s a severe case, you really don’t need a doctor’s appointment.) then you just need to rest, re-evaluate, and research.
- Rest- Clearly, your body needs to take some time off to allow itself to heal. If you are finding pain within just the first mile of the run, or worse when you simply walk everyday, then it’s time to hunker down for a bit and not do that same activity over and over.
- Re-evaluate- Something went wrong under your radar, and we can’t all go injury-free no matter what. When it happens, examine where it hurts. This when you have to ask yourself a lot of questions: what surfaces were you running on, what does your nutrition look like, did you up your mileage too fast…basically the questions above in the Past Injuries section. Evaluate, and then evaluate a different option.
- Research- Once you have come to a more definite conclusion of what your injury looks like (IT-band syndrome, patellafemoral pain syndrome, shin splints, stress fracture, etc.) Research it! Find exercises you can do to strengthen the affected areas. I will also spend more time explaining some research-backed exercises later on. If you can cross-train, then cross-train. Biking and swimming are usually the most recommended activities to do while injured.
Once you know your weaknesses, you HAVE to keep strengthening the areas that are likely to get worn down quickest. For example, my weak areas are my hips and glutes. I am constantly doing mobility and strength routines targeted for those each day.
I won’t go into all nutrition here because that’s for separate posts and would take too long. Eat healthy. 😉 But in regards to your actual health needs, any deficiency you may have could pose a problem. And it could not! Honestly, the main vitamins and minerals you need to be concerned with are: Iron, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Calcium, and Omega 3 is a fatty acid, but it is strongly advised to have this supplement taken around 3-4 times a week for optimal health as well. There are plenty of other supplements that you may need to be taking for joints or other needs. I would suggest going to a doctor if you have more questions with this. However, it’s also okay to discover as you go as I did 🙂
Here is what I highly recommend to all long-distance runners and especially female runners with high mileage: Get your ferritin levels checked. In other words, get a blood test to check and see how much iron you have in your body. You obviously do not want your levels to be too high as too much iron is not okay. So please get this checked before you begin your taking iron regularly. You want your level to be around 30-50, and one of the guys on my cross country team had his at a 100 and apparently, that was just fine for his case at 80 miles/week. Again, please talk to your doctor if you think you are at risk of being anemic as low iron has very negative effects on performance and causes fatigue.
Current State of Activity and Mileage
This is where the road diverts a bit. If you a beginner, you will want to ease into your first race through a run-walk or a jog program. And how active have you been normally? How much activity do you typically do? And even if you are a beginning runner, did you play a different sport like tennis or soccer? There are lots of elements to consider as you start to create a plan. Your plan might be having you run 3 days a week whereas another person may be walk/jogging the first few weeks. You have to be realistic with your goals and know your body. Know what jumps you can take and what progressions seem reasonable. Remember: progress is still progress.
If you are intermediate/advanced, creating plans shouldn’t be too difficult at this point. But as always, evaluate each race accordingly. A half-marathon will go for more tempo runs and mile repeats. A 5k will call for 400 repeats, 1000 repeats; shorter distances sprinted/exerted with vigorous effort and with a proper warm-up and cool-down.
Mileage is huge. I mean all of this is huge, but mileage you need to be cautious with. DO NOT MAKE DRASTIC JUMPS. Don’t run 20 miles the last week and 32 the next. That’s too big of a jump. Increase your mileage by 10% each week. If you did 20, go 22 next week. If you did 50, then 55 the next week. Slow and steady wins the race. And keeps you at less risk of getting hurt from over-training 🙂 Watch your other activities as well if you’re very involved. I’m talking even about the occasional soccer intramural game or basketball at the neighbor’s house. All I’m saying is, be careful. Because I have heard one too many horror stories of runners missing out on races because they got hurt in other activities! Not even in running! So…save the hardcore athleticism for the track and not in sand volleyball 😉 Your next race will thank you.
So that is my bit of a crash-course to getting the best out of running, plenty more details to follow. These are all things you should be evaluating your whole running career. We don’t just lace up and run, we have about a billion other things to tend to but it’s what separates us from the less dedicated.
You know you’re a runner/jogger when you have read this whole list and still nod and say yes to the miles ahead 🙂
Have a fantastic night and have a great run tomorrow! xoxo