Tag Archives: learning to run

The #1 Exercise for Runners

If you only have time for one “extra” in your routine, this is your pick. Bold claim, I know, but I’m good at reading science and Will is even better and over the past few years, we’ve spent an enormous amount of time reviewing literature on what makes the perfect runner. Sure, you have to have some genetic predisposition and big lungs, but you also have to have a stable foot and hip/knee drive. The exercise that comes up over and over again to facilitate the development of the best stride possible for each runner are step-ups. Anecdotally, when I do my step-ups regularly, my form is significantly better. When I don’t, it’s right back to shuffle city.

Don't mind the banner in the back. It was borrowed from Terre Haute some years back.

Don’t mind the banner in the back. It was borrowed from Terre Haute some years back.

Earlier this fall, Will built us a step-up box (you can buy them too, but they are surprisingly expensive). Ours is 18″ but anything between 12 and 20 inches should do the trick. If you want an even cheaper version, try using 2 or 3 stairs. Just be careful when you’re coming back down not to catch your foot.

As you can see from the pictures above, I still need work. In one picture, I’m looking down at my foot when I should be looking ahead. In the bottom picture, I’m collapsing towards my loaded foot. With continued lifting and drills, however, this should improve.

How do you incorporate step-ups into your life? Start with 5 on a side (so 10 total per set) with a goal of 3 sets. Eventually you want to get up to 10 on a side.These are best done after your harder runs; how else will you learn to improve form when you’re tired?! I generally do these three times a week with the rest of my leg work.

Later in the week, I’ll share my 20 minute leg and 20 minute arm workouts that really can fit in your day and are runner-specific. No future in Cross Fit with these routines, but done regularly, they’ll improve form and help you in the latter stages of runs and races.

Getting Back on the Horse

Tis the season for many new and revived runners and I love it! If being a running evangelical were a career, I’d be set. Running is for everyone and it’s fantastic that it gets included in so many New Year’s resolutions. If you’re starting running for the first time or the 50th time this week, welcome! Take it slow, expect a little discomfort and know that in the near future, these tough first days will be just a memory.

For those coming back to running, there’s some great news coming from the research world that you aren’t starting from zero. Researchers found that once you’ve been a runner, your muscles and the organelles within them never forget that. They may be a little rusty but the framework is still there and you will get back in shape faster than your never-run peers. If you were feeling a little anxious about heading back out there, grab those shoes and feel confident that your muscles know what they’re doing.

Anyone reading coming back to running? How about brand new runners? For the veterans, how do you approach a return to running after a layoff or break?

Write One Page and Then Another

“When I face the desolate impossibility of writing five hundred pages, a sick sense of failure falls on me, and I know I can never do it. Then gradually, I write one page and then another. One day’s work is all I can permit myself to contemplate.” John Steinbeck

As far as I know, Steinbeck wasn’t a long distance runner but the above quote makes me think he could have been. Like Steinbeck, when I face the impossibility of racing 26.2 miles at 6:14 pace, I know I can never do it. When I think of running another 70 mile week or sometimes even another 9 mile run, I also know I can never do it. But day by day, I lace up my shoes and get myself out the door and take it mile by mile.

Anne Lamott is one of my favorite authors and wrote a phenomenal book called Bird by Bird. The book starts out with an anecdote about Lamott’s brother, who had left a book report on bird until the very last minute. As her brother melts down over the task at hand, her father claps him on the shoulder and advises him “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” If you’re a reader or a writer, I highly recommend all of Lamott’s books, especially that one.

Steinbeck and Lamott are right in their wisdom about approaching huge tasks. If you look at the whole distance, at the whole training cycle, it seems so huge that you want to turn around, get back in bed and give up altogether. I know that one bad run (or workout or week) does not a marathon ruin, but try telling that to me last week when I stopped in the middle of a repeat in the middle of a workout because I couldn’t take another step. I was so upset that I threw my sunglasses across the track. True story. I don’t think my husband has ever seen that side of me but I was so frustrated in that moment with my legs and myself and all I had to throw were my sunglasses. It turned out that I was about an hour away from a stomach bug and by the time we cooled down and got home, I was so dizzy I’d lay down for the next 36 hours. By 48 hours later, I felt fine, got a long run in and moved on.

There are no shortcuts in running. We get lucky sometimes but if we want our best performances, we have to get out there and gradually pick away at our goal.

What quotes or thoughts do you lean on during tough training weeks? Best running hissy fit?