Hamstring Strengthening Video For Runners: Keep those hammies happy!

Alright, Runners, time to tell you the brutal honesty about your hamstrings: they’re plotting against you! They’re weak, they’re tight, and they’re cranky! Okay, okay, I’m speaking in the general, so your personal hamstrings (if you’re ALREADY taking care of them properly), may not be secretly plotting away an injury for you in the future…but it’s an ongoing offense we must play.

Hamstrings rank among one of the TOP injuries, or underlying issue for an injury for runners. The reason? Partially our lifestyles with too much sitting and also because runners are just prone to tight and weak hamstrings. The solution? Be proactive!

I’ve put together a video demonstrating an exercise routine targeting those weak hamstrings (and glutes). It hinges on the bridge exercise, doing them as single leg bridges. Aim to do these three times a week after your run, it will literally take you a minute or two, so no excuses!

3 Way Single Leg Bridges
10 raises each leg
3 Different distances from glutes

Avoiding an injury that keeps you from running is an ongoing effort, being proactive in the stretching and core work is your two-pronged approach! These nice exercises are one part of the puzzle and the other is doing the stretching.

Do yourself and the rest of the world a favor and keep being proactive…an injured runner on the streets is NOT someone I’d like to cross. ;)

Fun announcement! If you follow me on Twitter you may have caught wind of #coreandcake parties that have been going on. It’s simple, do you core and you get your cake! Runners are human, we work well off of bribes. ;)

I’d like to take this party to the blog world! SOOO…I’m having a #coreandcake party NEXT Friday, March 28th and EVERYONE’S invited!! Here’s what’s going down and how you can take part:

1) I’ll be posting a core routine I’m currently loving, followed of course by talk of cake!
2) BLOGGERS: This will be a link-up sort of deal, so if you email me: cait@caitchock.com with an RSVP that you’ll also be talking core and/or cake on your blog we’ll kindly link up.
3) Social Media: If you’re tweeting, FB’ing, or Instagraming on that Friday let’s bust out that #coreandcake hashtag and give me a shout-out…cuz, let’s be honest, I can’t get enough of seeing core and cake taking over the net. :)

So this is your INVITE!! :)

1) What is one of the ways you proactively take care of your hamstrings?
2) What is one of your known weak spots as a runner that you give extra care to?
3) What’s your favorite kind of cake?
Ummm….chocolate….duh! ;)

Running Patient Keeps You In the Sport and WILL Reward You…In Time ;)

Running is wrought with the ‘two steps forward, one step backward’ tests and trials. I’d call it logic, but let’s be honest, most runners lost all logic about 5,000 miles ago. ;)

Progress forward is HARD fought, once you’ve been running for awhile it then come in seconds and tenths rather than minutes. Each new PR ushers you into another realm, and in order to break through and run through to that next level it takes more work than before, and the cycle continues.
deck of runners

Eventually you’re working to improve by 1 or 2%, and by that time it takes more than just running harder and running faster. One must run harder and faster of course, but also SMARTER, be more ATTUNED, and then PATIENT.

All that patience sure does wear on a runner’s mindset. Typically we want those rewards, those PR’s NOW…but failing to be patient and look long term usually winds you up either 1) hurt or 2) limited.

* Hurt: By running harder and faster smartly that means allowing the body to recover between those hard and fast workouts. If you don’t recover on your easy days then you start greying the line between HARD and EASY. You might think that going harder more often will help, but in fact you wind up being too tired to really NAIL those hard workouts. A bunch of grey running just leads to a bunch of grey racing, not sharp, quality races and workouts. Well, that is if you don’t wind up injured first. I’ll include overtrained under the hurt category, because watching your times slip really does hurt too.

* Limited: By limited I mean you’re not looking at the BIG picture. To gain those ‘little’ percentages forward means you need to widen your scope beyond just running miles. It means having an actual PLAN, including core work, drills, strength work, stretching, injury prevention techniques, eating better...all those ‘extras’. Running SMARTER means being curious, and learning about all the other ways you can improve in addition to running harder and faster.
runner by tree
Distance Paradigm

The other thing about training is there needs to be a balance between just running MORE and running FASTER. Volume and consistency is important of course, but so is being able to get QUALITY out of those miles.

If you DO care about getting more PR’s (someone asked me, so I’ll explain that as Personal Record) then you need to have a speed component in all that running. Some runners fail to think about running more quality, and get lost in the competition to just run MORE. That’s okay, but if you want to run faster you’ve got to get used to running faster, make sense?

Looking long term and being PATIENT means you can’t have it all, all the time. Get your mileage up to a decent level, but from there focus on getting more QUALITY out of those miles. Speed workouts will hurt, duh, but it’s the kind of thing that us runners are a little crazy about and sickly enjoy. Well, enjoy after they are done.

Stepping forward and back, parallels the HARD and EASY days…let the paces step back so you can recover and then jump forward again.

Stepping forward and back also parallels this disgusting thing called an injury; they are unavoidable to even the most patient runner. Take them in stride, get through them and be prepared to step forward again.

Running steps forward every time you get a new PR or hit better times in your workouts; on the heels will be the times when you take steps back with bad races, off days, and horrendous blow-ups of workouts. They happen…don’t let them derail you…because if you are running SMARTLY you can’t ‘lose’ your fitness after just a bad race, dispute that mental thought, it’s a lie.

Runners often want those gains NOW. But sadly, those gains have to be earned…earned with hard freaking work and loads of patience.

1) Fill in the blanks: I recently took a step forward _________________ and was prepared to take a step backwards __________________________.

2) Fill in the blank: I really want to run faster NOW, but looking long term I recently incorporated __________________ to get faster, the payoffs may take a little time.

3) When an injury DOES crop up it tests my patience but I get through it and grow as a runner by ___________________________.
best running shirts

Keep Your Running Training Current But Not Trying to Re-invent the Basics

Some people do pretty weird stuff. Okay, this is coming from the Queen of Quirks, but when it comes to training and workouts this runner is sometimes left scratching her head, rolling her eyes or stuffing down giggles at some of the things she’s seen and heard. Warning: I’m about to get a little runner snarky so if you continue to read it’s at your own risk and I only ask you to remember that I am not, in fact, a totally mean and wretched bi***.
fast runner
“It’s new, it’s revolutionary.” The exciting and fascinating thing about running, sports performance and learning how to best manipulate the body through training in order to get the VERY most from oneself is that it is constantly evolving. As with any science there are always new findings, theories to be tested, and lessons to be learned. Training has evolved through the decades and so have World Records.

That said, sometimes I think people take this kind of thinking a bit to far: ‘Let’s come up with something totally new, never before even thought of and I bet because it’s unlike anything else we’ve stumbled upon it will be the magic training bullet!’ Sorry, but I think runners doing Cross-Fit falls into this category.

With running, yes you should always be on the look-out for new drills, exercises, workouts, and training philosophies because there are MANY aspects in that regard that work wonders for you. But, also remember that the ‘basics’ are the foundation and not insanely complicated: run, do speed-work, do longer intervals, allow your body to recover, basic core work (ie: pedestal), some strength work, be CONSISTENT, and be prepared to hurt during your workouts. Sometimes I think people look to something else in hopes that it can help deter from the glaring fact: running hard hurts, but you have to do it, there’s no substitute.
your brain on running
For distance runners, when it comes to the weight room and strength, you’ve got two major points to keep in mind: 1) Strength, core and flexibility work IS going to greatly improve your running…but… 2) You don’t have to over-do it either. Also, remember that it’s low weight/high reps for us…you don’t need to be maxing out at the bench press. Doing more functional type exercises is also more in tune with your goals. I think it’s runners taking new ideas in the weight room or strength moves that initiate a lot of my inner giggles.

Applicable weight training is when the exercises are geared toward running actions, typically more dynamic in nature. For example if you don’t have access to a gym, doing squats, lunges, push-ups, leg lifts, bench dips or step-ups could even wind up being better than loading up crazy high weight plates on the squat bar. Now if you do have some weights, doing running arms with 5 pounders is another example of a running specific exercise. If you get in front of a mirror and swing your arms as you would running for 20-30 seconds you can also work on your form; focus on getting the ‘perfect’ arm swing (front to back, shoulders relaxed and dropped) before worrying about how fast you can swing the weights…quality is more important.

So, to the guy who had a weight place looped around a leather strap, the strap then hung around his head and he was doing neck raises…I highly doubt he’s a runner in training. True fact.
This post could have been epic because the examples of these are legit drill/exercises and those maybe not so much, runs on longer than the Western States Race. Here are some examples of awesome drills/strength/flexibility/core to do. Bottom line, if it seems way too crazy or like the person telling you that it works seems to be trying too hard to be convincing, and a part of you wants to laugh…go with your gut and focus more on the basics. Run.

Miles Madness: Okay, to any of those awesome Team Cait Runners that have not yet emailed me: captaincait@hotmail.com their total miles for the days of 9/1-9/7 please do so and I can add those into the running total. I know the first week is a little odd-ball with the days but by next Friday when it’s time to submit it will be a full 7 days and we’ll be set on a more logical schedule…lol.

1) What is something you’ve seen, read, or heard about that made you scratch your head or laugh inside?

2) What is an example of something that was new to you but you tried (or plan to try) and it improved your running?

3) How do you balance staying current with new training ideas and tips that will help propel your running forward and then reading things or studies that seem to ‘try too hard’ or are just straight up cray-cray? ;) I guess, how do you assess the source?

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Know Your Weak Spots and Care For Them: All about strengthening your calf muscles and keeping your achilles tendons healthy

As I write this I’m icing my right calf muscle; the little bugger has been a bit cranky as of late so I’m being proactive and giving it a little TLC. Let’s be honest, a runner’s reality (or regular worker-outer) comes with the creaks and squeaks, the moans and groans from the muscles and body, we’re like our own Tin Men and Tin Women. To keep those creaks from turning into the full on screams of injury we’ve got our oil cans in the way of icing, massage, stretching, and the like.

yodeler on a yak

That's your calf muscles and achilles tendon thanking you for some TLC. ;)

Everyone is different and after awhile we get to know where our squeaks tend to lie; for some it’s the perpetually tight hamstring, the plantar fascia that rears its ugly head now and then, the achilles, the IT band and so forth. Knowing our weak points is important because we can focus on being extra diligent with these areas and do all we can to prevent a flare-up.

If the calf muscles are your weak point, listen up because doing some strength moves in addition to stretching and icing will do you good. In fact, if your achilles are your weak points, working on your calf strength will in fact help with that as well. Actually, even if these aren’t your known creaks and squeaks, strengthening them isn’t going to hurt you and still help you as a runner.
fast runner
The 3 Way Calf Raise Trick and Achilles Care:

* Forward raise: Find a set of stairs and stand with the toes of both feet on the step; allow the arch and heel of your foot to hang off the back of the step and hold onto a rail for balance. Point both toes forward and lower your heels down until they are below your toes and as far down as you can reach without your toes leaving the step. Now raise up and onto your toes in a slow, controlled movement. Lower yourself back down and repeat for a set of 10-15 raises.

* Inward facing raise: With your toes on the same step, now point your toes inward so they are facing each other. Lower your heels down until they are below your toes on the step and raise up onto your toes just as you did the first time. Keep the motions slow and controlled to work the muscles; lower and repeat for a set of 10-15.

* Outward facing raise: This time point your toes away from each other, your heels will be nearly touching. Do the same lowering and then raising motion and repeat for a set of 10-15.

Start out with doing just one set of each raises and gradually work your way up until you are doing 2 to 3 sets. Be sure not to just whip through each raise and cheat a bit with momentum, it’s better to slow down so that the muscles have to really work.

By doing them in three different directions it works both of the calf muscles (the soleus and gastrocnemius) from three angles; because when you’re running you aren’t always on the same, even terrain, you take turns, you step on angles, rocks, etc. and so you aren’t always working those muscles from a single, laterally forward position. This way when you’re out running, if you step on a curb or rock funny your calf muscles won’t be so shocked and you’ll have less chances of running into an injury.

The same theory applies to your achilles tendon and by strengthening the muscles by which this tendon inserts at the top you can stave off achilles issues.


When I'm injured I'm more likely to punch a poor person in the face due to cross-training induced grouchiness. :P

Taking care of your little squeaks, creaks, and injury prone spots will not just save your sanity in being faced with an injury that makes you take time off but it will vastly improve your running. We all know that consistency, and being HEALTHY enough to run those workouts, are the key to being your best.

Take those oil cans, lube up, and run happy. :)

1) Do you have calf or achilles issues? What is your squeaky wheel?
Usually it’s the top of my hamstring right up by the glute.

2) Do you do calf strengthening moves at all?

3) What are some of your favorite strength moves, do they target some of the spots you tend to get injured?

4) If you were in Dorothy’s parade which character would you choose to be?
Hmmm…I guess the Scarecrow, he looks like he could move and run at a decent pace. Actually, scratch that, I think ToTo could beat him.

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P90X: A Bit Overhyped and Do Runners Actually Do This Thing?

You too may be guilty of letting those annoying, yet oddly entrancing, informercials for the P90X training system run a little longer than you’d like to admit. Though, the same sort of effect does occur when the Shake Weight or Ab Zapper comes on…they pull you in and by the time you realize you’re watching there’s a little bit of drool on the remote.
muscle girl
Back on track here…the P90X training thing looked to me like just another twist on in-home fitness. A trainer looking to be the new Jane Fonda so to speak…only meatier, musclier, and with a bit of the army-esque ‘gggrrr’ appeal. They have the clips of sweat drenched men in cut-off’s busting out burpees and ladies with abs that could grate cheese.

They have to, it is after all aimed to get you to buy into the program. It looked like a combination of weights, plyometrics and core work which isn’t bad…but then again nothing incredibly revolutionary or late-breaking. Just my opinion…really, when it comes to the general public, getting them to do anything on a consistent basis is better than nothing. It also looked like there was an accompanying diet program which would also help explain the stark contrast of before and after pictures.

For the general public, what a lot of their workouts are lacking are:

*Consistency and personal accountability
*Intensity (a leisurely stroll around the block does not a true workout make…you want to get your heart rate up there and keep it there)
*Cardio and strength (many go the either or route, you need both…and it’s possible to combine the two in one workout)

P90X seems to supply that but so does a lot of other training techniques. My thing with it is that it tastes like a gimmick because it’s telling you it’s such a revolutionarily, different training product. That there is nothing else like it or will give you results…that’s not the case.

But how effective would any of this be for distance runners, or serious runners for that matter
? Obviously I’d never pick this over actually doing the miles or intervals, but maybe in accompaniment. (A side note, I’m sure P90X isn’t exactly trying to appeal to competitive distance running market, more the masses, but this is a running blog and so I’m at liberty to roll with this one.)

I’d say if you picked and pulled apart different aspects of the P90X and pared it down to what distance runners tend to lack, then it could work. I would just see this as being a bit of a supplement to the training rather than a switch (obviously). I haven’t dissected P90X enough to know exactly which parts may or may not be included in the list below…my point more-so is that finding these elements and including them in any way will help runners if done correctly. And that you don’t need to buy into P90X to be able get these things.

*Plyometrics: These are explosive movements, things you see the sprinters doing a lot; think leaps, bounds, box jumps, high skips…I wrote a bit more on them HERE. The thing with plyometrics is they will build muscle strength which translates to power and speed. You can do this to a degree with really short intervals (like 200′s) but as distance runners we don’t tend to recruit those fast twitch muscle fibers too much…so plyo’s are a nice way to do so.

*Core work and flexibility: Putting in lots of miles tightens up runners and many of us (myself included!) are too lazy to stretch. But it’s hampering us in a few ways; not only setting us up for injuries but also, being tight limits our range of motion. If you can’t get full extension because you’re too tight, that’s not a good thing. With core work, your torso is your powerhouse and there are tons of little, intrinsic muscles that typically get overlooked in strength routines.
girls flexing
*Strength: Runners do tend to not exactly love the strenght work, but having stronger arms will help your running…your legs can only turn over as fast as your arms can pump. Also, building strength helps keep you running with proper form as you tire in addition to the obvious power you pick up from stronger muscles.

*Functional muscle: I don’t tend to think going into the weight room and pounding the dumbbells is the most effective route to go…why build bulk for the sake of bulk? Rather, I think that functional training, where the moves are more dynamic and sports specific is going to do you more favors. So resistance training doesn’t have to be confined to the gym; things like resistance bands could work, medicine balls, kettlebells, even holding weights and mimicking the arm swing motions you do with running. Build muscle that will DO what you want it to when you run; this is different from just getting toned to look good which you can easily do in the weight room.

*Mentality: While I sort of laugh at the army-fied nature, it does come down to pushing yourself HARD enough to get the benefits. If you need a guy yelling at you to pump you up, by all means. Running hard hurts, you have to run hard to run fast…do the math and you get running hurts. Mental training is not to be overlooked and it’s good to continually callous your mind just as you do your body.

Nothing against Tony Horton, I think he’s a smart marketer and that’s what it does take to be successful today. I give him props for helping a lot of people take control and improve their lives…something we do need. (HERE is an article from Competitor that tackles this same kind of question.) I just don’t like the message that it’s completely revolutionary and the ONLY thing that works…like the magic bullet.
tired runner
There is no magic pill to make you better…it takes consistent, hard work and lots of motivation. That can come in a variety of forms, no person is alike and their training programs will reflect that…it needs to contain some basic elements, but in the end there is no cookie-cutter mold that works for everyone.

1) What do you think about the P90X training system? Do you use it or have you tried it?

2) What are your thoughts on strength, core, and dynamic training for runners? Do you do plyo’s or other methods, and how have they impacted your running?
I think plyo’s really help with building power and speed…but you have to be smart when you do them and at what point you are in the season. Also, core and strength work I know has vast improved many a runner!

3) What’s the ‘best’ or funniest informercial you’ve seen?
Shake weight is looking like the front runner at the moment. ;)

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Choose Your Own Adventure – Creating Your Own Weight and Strength Routine

Does anyone else remember those books? My favorite were the Goosebumps Choose Your Own Adventure. This one will be with a fitness twist, but we’ll get to that in a short bit.

So I was reading about this Schwarzenegger 5k challenge; the guise is to test a person’s speed AND strength. The participants are first asked to bench-press a certain percentage of their bodyweight until failure, wait 30 minutes and then go race a 5k. The 5k time is then adjusted depending on how many rep’s of the bench press the person did.
strong girl
I don’t think I’ll even attempt the title, as I’m sure I’d have to bench press more than the bar, so I don’t think I’d make all that many. BUT, it brings up a very important point: Runners DO need strength.

Over the years I’ve come to embrace…errr, tolerate the weights and core work. I just find it more boring than running but I know how good it is for me:

* Build your strength = faster times. The stronger your legs are the more power you’ll be able to generate with each push-off…think more speed. The more strength your arms have will further increase your stride speed because your legs will only go so fast as your arms can pump. Stronger core will mean you can retain more efficient form as you tire (stay upright) which will translate into a faster clock time.

* More strength = more miles.
You got it, the stronger you are muscularly the more miles your body can handle…at least handle safely and efficiently…again we get back to form.

* Better form and a stronger body = less injuries. Yup, you heard it here folks, core and weight work will lessen your chances of getting injured.

* More muscle mass = leaner you. You might weight the same, or even put on some pounds, but your body fat will go down and that means you’ll be rocking more muscle mass. Muscle burns more calories per pound than fat, so if you’re into that you’ll be increasing your metabolism throughout the entire day.

Now, the thing with weights and core work for runners is it’s more about higher repetitions and lower weights…we’re going for the leaner muscle tissue. Aim to work at least each major muscle group once per weight session (2-3 times a week on non-sequential days) and do it continuously. Move from exercise to exercise without resting; this will not only make it go by faster but keep your heart rate elevated.

Here’s where we make it ‘fun’, below I’ll list a category and then different exercises. Pick one exercise from each group, cycle through all the groups and you can then ‘choose your own routine’; though for each day that you pick a certain exercise from the group stick with the SAME one for all the sets. Though for the different days you can create plenty of diverse routines. Do 15 repetitions of each one and work your way up to three sets.

Group A:

  • Walking lunges (15 each leg)
  • Forward lunge – step forward into lunge than back to center (15 each leg)
  • Prisoner Squats – squat in place
dumbbell press

Dumbbell Press

Group B

  • Push-up
  • Raised leg push-up (put your legs on a chair or step so they are at an incline, these are harder)
  • Dumbbell press – lay back on bench, dumbbell in each hand, arms straight up. Lower arms until they are at an 90n degree angle and then raise back up

Group C

  • Bicep curl – use two weights, one in each hand
  • Bicep curls – using a long weighted bar
  • Running arms – weight in each hand do a controlled motion as you use them in running

Group D

  • Bench dips – facing away from a chair, put your hands on the edge and legs extended in front of you. Start with arms straight, lower down until your bum is near the ground and arms bent at 90 degrees, then raise back up
  • Tricep kick backs – weights in each hand, bend forward at the hips and keep your arms even with your torso so that they are bent at 90 degrees. Weights in hand, extend at the elbows and lift until your arms are straight, then lower back down
  • Behind the Head Reach – lie facing up on a bench with a bar weight in your hands, bent at the elbows. Start with the bar hovering above your chest then lower it behind your head, over the edge of the bench until your shoulders are even with your ears and then lift back up to starting position.
overhead reach

Overhead Reach

Group E

  • Overhead reach – weight in each hand sit or stand with your torso straight and extend your arms straight above your head. Lower arms down until arms are at 90 degree then back up.
  • Side flies – weight in each hand, sit or stand with torso erect. Bend arms at 90 degree and place the weights together in front of your chest; keeping arms bent raise them laterally until they are even with your shoulders then back down
  • Front flies – weight in each hand, stand straight up, arms down at sides. Keep arms straight and raise weights up in front of you until arms are even with your shoulders and then back down.

Lat Pull-down
Group F

  • Bent over Row – position yourself facing down toward a bend, rest your left hand and left knee on the bench, keep your torso straight from bum to head. Drop your right arm down so it is dangling over the side of the bench and with a weight in hand. Lift your upper arm straight up until bent at 90 degree and even with your torso then back down. Repeat on other side.
  • Lat pull-downs – face one of the lat pull-down machines and pull-down
  • Total body flies – stand straight up holding a weight in each hand; crouch forward into a 3/4 squat and bring the weights together between your legs. As you stand back up cycle your arms up over your head until the dumbbells are touching and your arms are straight. Lower back down into squat and repeat.

Whew…hope all of that made sense to you. The thing with weights is that it is also smart to mix-it up so that your muscles don’t adapt and stop reacting to the stimuli. Of course you don’t have to change it every single time, but so long as you hit each muscle group you will be getting the benefits and while it may be more boring than running…it will help your running. :)

PS- this was more upper-body focused and meant to be done if you’ve already done some cardio/running. I’ll do another post centered on more leg exercises but you can also do plyometrics to target your legs.

1) Do you do weight work? Do you like it?

2) Would you do that Schwarzenegger challenge?

3) What’s your favorite kind of core or strength work?
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