Day 26: Squats = Runner’s Best Friend

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According to the Runkeeper.com blog Squats are a Runner’s Best Friend, “One of the biggest squat myths is that squats are bad for your knees. False! This myth comes from a few badly run studies in the 1960s that have since been disproved. More recent studies have instead shown that people who regularly squat have more stable knees.”

Squats provide important benefits to runners and walkers:

  1. Knee Stability
  2. Increased Leg Power
  3. Improved Body Awareness
  4. Injury Prevention

Additionally, “squatting  effectively teaches runners how to be better runners by addressing and improving basic athletic skills. For example, squatting teaches runners how to load and engage their posterior chain, how to stabilize their hips, knees, and ankles, and how to move with good posture and maintain that good posture for longer periods of time.”

To squat effectively, we must address three basic skills:

1. Maintaining posture
2. Adding load
3. Adding torque

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Focusing on developing our athletic skill with posture, load, and torque, a runner’s relationship with strength training can be changed forever. While we want stronger hamstrings, we cannot just do hamstring exercises and expect better running results. Why? Because the whole is greater than the sum of its muscular parts. We must strengthen the other areas around our hamstring to help support those muscles and take some of the load off that area. Squats are a great way to strength and support our hamstrings!

So even if you aren’t doing the extra squat challenge this month…today YOU SQUAT! 😉

Day 26 exercises: 3 sets of 15 

****Click here for how to videos**** 

  • Squats
  • Side Lunges (3 sets of 15 for each leg)
  • Wall Sit – :60 (3X)
  • Plank – :60 (3X)

Bonus: Squat Challenge (75 additional Squats) 

Challenges: I know these are getting harder to fit in as the numbers go up but we are almost done! Keep pushing Crew don’t you dare give up!

  • Burpees – 55
  • Push Ups Beginner – 18
  • Push Ups Advanced – 105
  • Squats – 75

Remember Crew….we are building brutally strong legs this month! The month is almost over so hold on tight and keep up the great work! 🙂

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Day 19: Wall Sit Anytime Anywhere!

screen-shot-2017-01-19-at-5-30-20-amMost distance runners will tell you they’ve had a point on one (or many) of their runs where they hit “the wall.” The wall can be both an emotional and a physical barrier. You need mental strength to finish a marathon, but you also need toned muscles!

Wall sits are a great down-and-dirty strength exercise to build strength in your quadriceps and calves. When you’re doing a wall sit, your quads are holding your weight up by pushing it against the wall, and your calves are working to keep your knees bent at a 90° angle.

By strengthening your thigh muscles, you are helping stabilize your knees, which helps lower your risk of injury. Runner’s Knee, which is an unfortunate and common injury for distance runners, can be caused by weak thigh muscles (among other things). By strengthening your quads, you’re helping reduce risk of injury.

Anyone Can Do Wall Sits

Perhaps the greatest thing about wall sits, is that anyone can do them, anywhere, at any time. Can’t find time for your full daily workout? Throw in some wall sits throughout the day. Camping in the woods? Find a tree to lean up against. Got a few minutes before you have to be back at work from your lunch break? Wall sit! Arrive a few minutes before your doctor appointment? The car can provide a solid surface for a wall sit – right there in the parking lot.

Remember, our “challenge” is meant to motivate you to do more than you would each day. We’re not here to beat you up for not getting in every single exercise every single day. If you do…that’s awesome! But we know that busy lives get in the way and the most important thing is being active and adding strength training to your routine.

So when you’re short on time, grab a wall and take a squat. Every little bit counts!

Day 19 exercises: 3 sets of 10

****Click here for how to videos****

  • Squats
  • Side Lunges (each leg)
  • Wall sits – 3X (:60) or 1X for 3 minutes!
  • Plank – :60 (your choice)

Bonus: Hip Stability Exercies for IT Band Syndrome and Runner’s Knee

Lots of people suffer from tight hips and IT Bands which lead to pain in and around our knees and down our legs. Hip rotation and pelvic imbalances are also frequent issues for runners that contribute to IT Band Syndrome or Runner’s Knee.

Yes, this is a monthly challenge, but I also hope you find information along the way that you tuck away in your personal arsenal for future use. The exercises in this video help to create additional stability and strength for both prevention and recovery. Check it out.

Challenges:

  • Burpees – 45
  • Push Ups Beginner – 15
  • Push Ups Advanced – 30
  • Squats – 50

Speed Work: Climb ladders

Ladder workouts are speed sessions that vary the length of the work intervals in incremental steps and are a great way to get a mix of several high-intensity running paces in a single session. Go to the track or use your GPS watch to track your distance., warm up with 10 minutes of easy running, and try one of these ladders. Run each interval slightly faster than the preceding one, and jog, walk  400 meters (or just stand still and breath deeply) between each interval.

Starter ladder: 400M (1/4 mile), 800M (1/2 mile), 1600M (mile), 800M (1/2 mile), 400M (1/4 mile).

Advanced ladder: 200M (.1 mile), 400M, 800M, 1200M, 1600M, 1200M, 1000M, 800M, 400M, 200M

Remember that it is always important to do a good warm up and cool down before and after every speed work session. And if you’re not doing running drills to loosen your glutes, hips, quads, and calves…you’re missing out on an important part of the workout.

  1. Warm up
  2. Running Drills: Pick a few and take a few minutes to loosen up. Click here for descriptions of each running drill. Butt Kicks, High Knees, Bounding, Grapevines, Slow Skipping, Hamstring Extensions, Running Backwards, Straight Leg Shuffle, Lateral Bounding
  3. Speed Work
  4. Cool Down

Running today? We usually try to do our strength work before we go for a run…but this time save one of your wall sits for afterwards, when your legs are fatigued. Just one…don’t go overboard with it. When it’s all said and done, take time to stretch out those tired and sore muscles so you’re ready to go long this weekend!

Have a great Thursday Crew! 🙂

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Day 5: Squat City

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Squats are a simple, classic exercise that should be part of every runner’s routine because they build functional strength that carries over to better running.

Squats activate the glutes, hips, hamstrings, quads, calves, and core muscles in a bent-knee position, which builds running-specific power to propel you forward. They also create functional strength through the legs and hips, develop proper range of motion in the ankles, and shore up muscle imbalances to prevent the risk of injury. Strengthening these muscles also guards against injuries like runner’s knee and iliotibial-band syndrome.

No two squats are the same, so as we get farther into the month it’s important to switch things up. A change in stance, load positioning, and technique can dramatically alter the focus of your squats, allowing you to better hammer your glutes, prep your quads for hills, or improve your stability when you need it.

Of course I put this together before I looked at the squat calendar and realized it’s a “rest day.” screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-5-21-04-am

I won’t load you up with extra squats, but I do want us to try out a new version as our bonus exercise today so you’re ready to switch things up once the numbers get higher. Check out the squat variations recommended by the recent Runner’s World article, “6 Squat Variations Every Runner Should Do: To be a better runner, you need squats—and multiple types” below.

Day 5 exercises: 2 sets of 10 

****Click here for how to videos****

  • Squats
  • Side Lunges – 2 sets on both legs
  • Wall Sit – :60 (2X)
  • Plank: :60 – Your Choice

Bonus: Squat of your choice – 2 sets of 10 – Choose from the squats below

Challenges:

  • Burpees – 25
  • Push Ups Beginner – 6
  • Push Ups Advanced – 20
  • Squats – Rest Day

Bonus Squat Options

Single-Leg Squatscreen-shot-2017-01-05-at-5-25-24-amOnce you’ve mastered bodyweight squats, switching to single-leg squats (a.k.a. pistol squats) is a great, gear-free way to increase loads and build max strength for each leg. “Running is nothing more than pushing off one leg at a time while maintaining balance.”

Do it: Stand tall with your feet together, and extend one leg and both arms out in front of you. Slowly, and under control, lower down as far as you can before you feel your form break, body sway, or your working leg “give out.” Pause briefly at your greatest depth and then push through your heel to return to standing. Start with shallow squats, or consider lowering down onto and off a chair. As you get stronger, go deeper. Perform all reps and then repeat on the opposite side. Do three to four sets of six to 10 reps, prioritizing proper form over rep number.

Tip: If you hold a dumbbell or weighted object out in front of you throughout the exercise. It will act as a counterbalance and actually make things easier.


Low-Bar Back Squatscreen-shot-2017-01-05-at-5-27-10-amThis move involves placing the barbell across the upper back, rather than on top of the shoulders, upping the demand placed on the glutes, says Jason Fitzgerald, a 2:39 marathoner, USA Track & Field-certified coach, and founder of Strength Running. That’s huge, as the glutes tend to be underdeveloped in runners, contributing significantly to lower-body injuries.

Do it: Stand facing a racked barbell and grasp it with your hands greater than shoulder-width apart. (Start with just a barbell, perfect the form, and then begin adding weight plates.) Tuck your head under it to place it across your upper back, just above your armpits, and rotate your elbows behind you to form a “shelf” for the bar. Stand up with the bar and take a couple steps back. From here, stand with your feet between hip- and shoulder-width apart, and slowly hinge at the hips and knees to lower your body as deeply as you can without breaking form, feeling discomfort in your joints, or lifting your heels off of the floor. Pause, then push through your heels to return to start. That’s one rep. Perform three sets of 10 reps.
Tip: Your torso will maintain a slight tilt forward throughout the movement. That’s okay. It will help keep the bar in place and increase glute activation.

Jump Squat to Boxscreen-shot-2017-01-05-at-5-28-45-amAdding an explosive, plyometric element to your squats strengthens your legs’ elastic properties and trains your muscles to generate more force in less time, Hamilton says. Those are major benefits to anyone regularly pounding the pavement.

Do it: Stand tall with your feet between hip- and shoulder-width apart, facing a short box. Hinge at the hips and bend your knees to lower your body into a squat. As you lower, slowly cock your arms behind you. Once your thighs are just above parallel with the floor, explosively jump up and forward, swinging your arms up overhead. Land as quietly as possible back into the squat position on top of the box. Step down, rest for a few seconds, and repeat. Perform four sets of six reps.

Tip: Work up to these. Any jumping during your workouts is best saved until you’ve already built up a base level of strength. It’s also best to begin with shorter boxes (under 12 inches) and work to taller ones.


Weighted Overhead Squatscreen-shot-2017-01-05-at-5-30-10-am“I love this lift, which is executed just like a regular squat with a bar held above the head, because it’s less about strength and more about mobility, control, and balance—elements of general athleticism that are important for runners who tend to only run.” Fitzgerald says.

How to do it: Stand tall with your feet between hip- and shoulder-width apart, holding a barbell with a greater-than-shoulder-width grip above your head. From here, slowly hinge at the hips and knees to lower your body as deeply as you can without breaking form, feeling discomfort in your joints, or lifting your heels off of the floor. Pause, then push through your heels to return to start. Perform three sets of 10 reps.
Tip: Start using a lighter weighted bar before progressing to a barbell. A standard Olympic lifting bar weighs 45 pounds.

Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat:  screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-5-33-01-amAnother single-leg exercise, this one hones balance while also training the gluteus medius to a higher degree than many squat variations. For those commonly plagued by IT band and other knee issues, this is a must.

Do it: Get in a staggered stance with your feet hip-width apart, your back foot elevated behind you on a bench. Lower your torso straight down toward the floor, bending your knees and allowing a slight hinge at the hips. When your front leg is parallel to the floor, pause, then press through your heel to return to start. Perform three sets of 10 reps per side.

Tip: Start by performing this movement as a bodyweight exercise. As you progress, you can hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides.


Eccentric Front Squat:

screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-5-34-56-am“By holding the barbell across the front, rather than the back, of the shoulders, this is a more quad-dominant squat,” Fitzgerald says. This exercise presents a great opportunity for runners to train their quads eccentrically—or as they lengthen. Doing so will make running downhill feel easier.

Do it: Stand facing a barbell so that it sits on the front of your shoulders, and either grasp the bar with a grip just wider than shoulder-width apart. Choose a grip position that allows you to keep your upper arms parallel to the floor throughout the entire exercise. Stand up with the bar and take a couple steps back. From here, stand with your feet between hip- and shoulder-width apart, and slowly hinge at the hips and knees to lower your body as deeply as you can without breaking form, feeling discomfort in your joints, or lifting your heels off of the floor. Focus on lowering into each squat as slowly as possible to emphasize the eccentric action of your quads. Pause, then push through your heels to return to start. Perform three sets of 10 reps

Tip: Perform this exercise with just the barbell, and work up to adding weight plates. If the barbell feels too heavy, you can also perform this exercise by holding a dumbbell in each hand just in front of your shoulders. Most people cannot front squat as much weight as they can back squat.


I know I know…it’s a squat rest day…you’ll live…it’s only 2 sets of 20.

It’s almost the weekend so let’s…..

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Day 27: Focus on Today

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We can’t control what will happen next year, next week…or even tomorrow. But we can focus on what we can do today.

What will you do in the next 24 hours to get closer to where you want to be?

How hard will you work today?

Day 27 exercises: Legs & Stability – 4 sets of 15

****Click here for how to videos****

  • One Legged Bridge
  • Side Lunges
  • Side Lying Leg Raises
  • Plank – Your Choice (:90 2X)

Bonus: 5 Minute Plank – Don’t get nervous…this is a moving plank so you’re not holding one position for the whole 5 minutes. Give it a shot. You’re stronger than you think and I bet you’ll surprise yourself!

5-min-plank


screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-9-12-47-pmSpeed Work: Have a plan to get your speed work in this week? Here’s the workout.

I know speed work seems scary…but once you try it, finish it, succeed, and see results…you will LOVE IT!

That’s all for now Crew….push hard today! 🙂

Day 20: Bring It On

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In the old days, runners ran.

Seriously, ask runners a few generations older than you what they did for their daily workout, and they’ll likely answer: “I ran.”.

But no matter what race you’re preparing for, you might not want to stick to this old training routine. We’ve learned a lot over the last 30 to 40 years…and like so many other things, running has evolved.

This is not news to the Core Crew. We know we need to add strength training…right? We know that runners need to do more than just run. Runners need to be strong and athletic. If we’re not strong, we can get hurt even if we practice good running form. In fact, some injury statistics put the annual injury rate for runners as high as 85 percent!

Reducing the injury rate isn’t that difficult, though. In fact, according to Greatist.com, “runners can [get stronger and reduce their chance of injury] effectively with just 10 to 20 minutes of strength training each day.

YAY!!! This is GREAT news! Our daily challenge won’t take long, but it will make you stronger and your chances of injury will go down. Does this mean you’ll never get injured? Well no…but if I can increase my chances of staying on the road by getting stronger, I’ll take it!

This same article says the best exercises for runners are compound movements like deadlifts and squats (got em), bodyweight exercises like planks and push ups (got those too), and hip and glute strengtheners (covered!).

Lastly, the article says we should stretch and foam roll. Well dang…we do that too! 🙂

So what are we waiting for? Bring on the leg work!

Day 20 exercises: Legs / Stability – 3 sets of 15 

****Click here for how to videos****

  • One Legged Bridge
  • Side Lunges
  • Side Lying Leg Lifts
  • Plank – Your Choice (:60 2X)

Bonus: Runners Touch screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-7-43-34-pm

Strike a pose in perfect running position with one leg in high knee position. Balancing on the one leg, bend at the hip and touch the toe that’s on the ground with the opposite hand while the leg in the air rotates under and back. Make sure the standing leg remains stable and as straight as possible while enabling you to touch the ground. Be sure to prevent the moving knee from crossing midline while that leg straightens out behind you. Come back up to running position quickly without losing balance, pause for a second or two, and repeat 10 times. Switch legs and repeat. Throw this in the rotation with today’s workout and do 3 sets for each leg. (No you don’t need to use a kettle ball as shown in the picture.)


Speed Work: ONE…just ONE Crew member committed to speed work yesterday. What do I have to do to convince you to give it a try? Do I need to come meet you at the track? I would if I could!! Check out this week’s speed work in yesterday post here. Scroll to the bottom for the workout and pace info.

Strong legs are a key ingredient for staying on the road injury free! And as a side bonus…strong legs look good and will help us run faster! GETTTT ITTTT Crew!! 🙂

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Day 13: Strength & Stability Leads to Greater Mobility & Better Technique

stregnth-and-stabilityIn theory, running isn’t a two-legged activity. Of course, we have to use both legs, but it’s really a series of one-legged stances conjoined by the act of managing a controlled fall.

There is never a time when both feet are on the ground. So single leg strength and stability couldn’t be more important for runners.

While we’re running the body does whatever it takes to stay upright and balanced, often recruiting the strength of other muscles. We must work harder than normal to run the same pace over a given distance, especially as the bigger, stronger muscles become fatigued; this leads to a reduction in running economy.

A reduction in running economy causes some muscle groups to overcompensate, leading to gait changes, which can cause nagging dilemmas such as a sore Achilles tendon or iliotibial band syndrome to more serious injuries such as anterior knee pain or plantar fasciitis.

What’s the solution? Work on strength and stability the same way you run—one leg at a time. Single-leg balance training teaches you to isolate and strengthen specific balance muscles while improving your reaction time. Only when muscles are balanced can the body run fast and efficient for long periods of time.

Lucky for us, our Tuesday Leg/Stability day hits these marks perfectly so let’s get to work!

Day 13 exercises: Legs/Stability – 3 sets of 10

  • One Legged Bridge – 3 sets of 10 each side
  • Side Lunges – 3 sets of 10 each side
  • Side Lying Leg Raises – 3 sets of 10 each side
  • Plank – Your Choice (:45 2X)

Bonus: Single-Leg Balance Drill 

“Think” – dynamic warm up – single leg swing we do before a race to loosen up but without using something to keep our balance.

WHY: The most relevant to running, it activates your arch to maintain good foot and ankle alignment.

HOW: Start by standing on your left leg, lift your right leg straight toward the 12 o’clock position if you were standing on a clock. Gently swing the right leg forward and back, from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock. Repeat 10 to 15 times each leg. It’s important to use this exercise to build balance and strength so do your best not to hold onto anything but it’s ok to stand close to a wall or doorway to keep from falling.


Speed Work: Have you made a plan to get your speed work done this week? Do you know what intervals and the pace you should be running? If not, please click here and scroll to the bottom of Monday’s post for all the info.

Remember that speed work is not just for runners who want to log faster times; speed work will also help you improve your running/breathing economy, resulting in feeling better/breathing better during your long runs!

Throw in some post run stretching and don’t forget to log your miles for Racery! Current team standings are below:

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Don’t let you excuses catch up with you…Keep Running Crew! 🙂

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Day 6: I Like Strong Glutes…

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We know the core (hips, transverse abdominis, lower back) are important for preventing running injuries, but without exercises to strengthen your hips, glutes and hamstrings, your body will break down.

We must learn how to engage our glutes when running to run faster and more efficiently.

It’s true that some of the power in the running stride comes from your quads and calves, but the reality is that the quads and calves play only a minor role in your ability to generate a powerful stride compared to the hips, hamstrings and glutes.

How strong are your hips, glutes, and hamstrings? Don’t ignore the power these parts of our legs have an our ability to run faster and stronger!

Day 6 exercises: 2 sets of 10

****Click here for how to videos****

  • One Legged Bridge
  • Side Lunges
  • Side Lying Leg Raises
  • Plank – Your Choice (:30 2X)

Familiar with theses exercises and feeling good after 2 sets? Throw in one more round to feel the burn and make it count!

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 5.49.11 AMBonus: #BalanceAndReach – Balance and Reach is an exercise brought to us a few months ago by our very ow Jennifer Moro-Ortiz. It’s a great exercise for hip stability and strength. If you’re doing it right…you’ll also feel it in your butt too. Use those glutes and hips to keep yourself balanced and to move your legs back and forth smoothly. Click here to watch the video and see how it’s done. Work through 2 sets of 10 on each side.


Speed Work: Seeing so many of us racing 5Ks yesterday, I thought it would be Speed work does a runner gooda cool idea to find out where your 5K pace stands so you have a way to gage your pace for other speed work. If you raced a 5K or any distance yesterday or this past weekend…you’ve already done your speed work for the week….don’t add another “effort workout”.

If you didn’t race this weekend, perform your own 5K! Remember that the warm up is an essential part of doing your best 5K. Run at least a mile at a slow conversation pace. Jessica and I ran a 12 min mile to warm up before our 5K yesterday. Then we were able to pull out 3 9 min miles during the race. Without that warm up, we would’ve been dead on the course after mile 1.

It’s also important to run a short cool down afterwards. So when you’re done, slow it down and run another 1/2 to full mile at your conversation pace. All in all you should have 4-5 miles with this workout. Let us know how you did and write down your pace for future reference when we talk about speed work drills. This information will help you determine how fast your interval sprints should be. More to come on that later…


Ready for a great Tuesday? Remember….we need strong, stable muscles in every part of our legs to get the speed and stability we want during our key races. Skipping leg day because you feel that you get enough strength from just running is a bad idea….

Get to work and fire up those legs Crew! 🙂

strong legs for running