Neuromuscular Training For Runners: Quick feet box taps

Everyone wants to run faster, right? Part of getting faster is of course doing the shorter repeats; one must build that explosive power of course. BUT, there’s another part to getting faster and it’s training your BRAIN and nervous system to respond at a quicker rate.

A runner can’t utilize that explosive power to run faster without the nerve and synapse networks first being created to ‘tell’ your foot to move faster off the ground. Isn’t science and the brain cool?

The neuromuscular part of training isn’t something every runner is aware of, but if you’re not addressing it you can run all the 200′s in the world and not really be tapping into your full potential. I’ve written a few articles about the neuromuscular training and how it relates to runners:

* The Multi-Level Approach to Getting Faster
* Work on Getting Faster in Tri-Fecta Form

One of the exercises I mention are ‘Quick Feet Box Taps’. I got an email from someone who wasn’t quite sure if they were doing them right so I decided to make a little video.

You can also find it on my Instagram page. Start with a set of 15-30 seconds and see how many taps you can get. REMEMBER it’s QUALITY over quantity. If you’re getting slopping you’re going to start reinforcing bad habits and that will defeat the purpose. Work up to two sets and do the 3 times a week…preferably as part of your dynamic warm-up routine before workouts or immediately following the workout. It can be fun to watch yourself improve with more taps every week…you know us runners and that competitive spirit. ;) But again, quality over quantity…so if you have to start slow that’s what you need to do!

What, you love my shirt too?! Well, thanks…it’s my Ezzere Runner Face Tee! :)

Happy Saturday my runner friends. Get those feet firing off the ground, coupling neuromuscular training and speedwork, and watch your PR’s get faster! :)

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: 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! ;)

Lights, Camera, Action…Core and Flexibility!! Video demonstrations for your running and entertainment

Turns out this runner is taking herself to Hollywood to become a movie star! If you believed me even for a second then I’m sorry. However, to make it up to you I will let you point at laugh at me here rather shortly.

Yesterday’s post was all about runners and their imbalances; why we all have them, where common ones occur and exercises that can help you strengthening your weaknesses. I talked about one of my very favorite core routines, the Pedestal Plank Routine, and today I’ve got a video demo in case my wordage wasn’t quite enough plank awesomeness.

I also stressed how important stretching and improving your flexibility are for your running; both in preventing injuries and helping with your form and efficiency. Below I’ve demonstrated a quick flexibility routine you can do in just a couple minutes. No excuse for not being able to cram some quick stretches into your day at some point, preferably right after you finish running and are nice a sweaty. [Sweaty and your muscles are still warmed up!]

Check it out…I sure am sporting one crazy cool shirt, no?!?!? ;) Get Chicking peeps!

These videos are part of the accompanying media that I did for my latest article up now at Competitor: Improve Your Running By Becoming a Better Athlete. I’d suggest you all mosey on over there and take a read for more ways you can improve your running and get you some nice and shiny PR’s! :)
Also, someone all about improving core strength and flexibility for runners is Coach Jay Johnson and he was an excellent resource for the article…so go check him out too!

1) Video demonstrations, are you guys fans? Would you like to see more? I won’t blame you if you say no though…

2) How good is your balance and core strength in doing those planks; are you able to do the leg raises or are you sticking with the isometric holding for now?

3) In terms of flexibility, when do you tend to sneak in your stretching time? Don’t say never…hehe.

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A Non-Love Letter to Quarter Repeats: I wish I didn’t feel like such a misfit stepping onto the track in anticipation of 400′s

A headline jumped through my screen, grabbed this runner around the around the neck and choked out a laugh, smile, then grimace from me in that order. ‘I Love Quarters.’ Now obviously all of our minds went right to track quarters, at this point we’re all so far brainwashed that there was no question what the topic was about. You say you love quarters, eh?
sprinter on track
Okay, to be fair to the Running Times article quarters ARE great and yes, we all know they can hone your speed. Often times the workouts we dread the most are the ones we need to do the most…but to actually go and declare that we love them, well I don’t think I could go that far. I know there are people that could, but me, I’m more in love with my long runs and tempo runs.

When I think of quarters I, just like the author, am teleported back to my high school years. What is it about high school and quarter mile repeats? It seems like across the board those are the workouts we all seemed to do all the time. Not saying they don’t work, but just a funny observation there.

The article does a great job of exemplifying how there are a few ways to attack quarter repeats depending on your event and what you’re trying to accomplish, I won’t rehash it all here because Coach McMillan knows his stuff and is probably surely a better resource than I. The only thing I will add is that the quarter workout I recall doing the most my senior year of high school was 10 x 400 with 1 minute recovery jog between each. For a girl with NO speed they were literally all out for me from the get-go but the goal was to run them at my mile pace.

Did I declare my love for them at the time, well, I wouldn’t take it that far but I do believe they helped a lot. Speed was always my weak point, I already had the endurance, and for the high school level this workout isn’t all that complex but one I feel will get the job done.
girl runner
All that said, quarters make my stomach churn and my face get all twisted up in anticipation…so not of the butterfly variety. Instead, here is my love letter to quarters:

“Dear Mr. 400 meter,
I really wish I could be your best friend and join your cool clique of runners who have an ongoing love affair with you. You know, the fleet-footed speedsters who make rounding the bend and hitting that extra gear look beautiful and effortless. The ones who devour the track with their silken smooth legs, but the same fierce legs with definition like none other. The muscles that are powerhouses pumping full throttle just below the skin. The athletes who can actually get out of a set of blocks and not just face-plant into the track when they take off.
But I’m not, I won’t try to fool anyone, you’d out me as a poser. But I try. The first 100 meters for me is the hardest as my body is trying to grapple with the shock of attempting to sprint. The second 100 meters feels the best, it’s the point where the shock wears off and the lactic acid onslaught has yet to begin…but we all know it’s coming. Passing the 200 I promise my body I’m half-way done (let’s not think about the other repeats, duh) but the legs are starting to realize that my body has instantly gained 300 pounds…hold it together fatso. The homestretch my mind and body are at war, my eyes are locked on the finish and I promise the misery is almost done, but my body begs to differ. I’m plowing through a load of sand trying to finish this d*** quarter. The last 50 my mind drifts to the split saying, “This better be what I want it to be, all this suffering BETTER yield me results or there will be h*** to pay.
I don’t love you, and I’m sorry to be so blunt, I’ve found honesty works best; I love you when I’m done and the workout went my way, but in the end I still know I’m a poser when I step onto the track and go into 400 repeats.
Ambiguously yours,
The Arty Runnerchick”

1) Quarters…love them or hate them?

2) If you ran in high school do you also seem to recall an insane amount of repeat quarters as the basis of nearly all of your workouts?? Hehe.

3) If you do quarter repeats what’s your usual workout? If you don’t, what kind of workout do you do that is geared towards working on your speed?

4) If you have something, a particular workout, that you really don’t love but wish you had more of an affinity for, what is a short little bit you’d like to express to that workout in the manner of my little love letter?

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Plyometrics for Runners Part II – Jumps and Hops: I caught the Easter Bunny hopping away plyo style

Let’s talk some plyometrics.If you’re reading this and your face is already smeared with chocolate and Peeps sugar residue, you’ve done the Easter Bunny thing right. ;) Just kidding…Happy Easter to those who celebrate and Happy Sunday to those who don’t.

jelly bean runner

Jelly beans also work their way into those eggs! ;)

But because we have bunnies on the brain today I thought it fitting we revisit the topic of plyometrics, this time covering hops and jumps. You can read the Part I on bounds and skips.

This time of year also falls into early track season; here is a prime time to build strength by incorporating plyometrics into your training. Plyo’s, because they are intense, fast-twitch muscle focused are taxing on the body and even if you don’t feel sore right away that will usually change come the next day. Because of this you have to be careful not to over-do them and typically you’ll want to ease back on these plyos, or cut them out entirely, come peak racing season.

During base building phases and early season is your opportune time to increase you strength and work on areas you need to improve on. If you’re not racing track, or not racing at all, plyo’s are still great because they:

1) Build strength and power; this translates into speed and the ability to end your races faster with a kick
2) Build more muscle; more muscle mass and less fatty tissue is always a good thing ;)
3) Rev up metabolism;similar to interval sessions, intense bouts of plyo’s not only get your heart rate up there while you’re doing them but they create an after-burn effect where your metabolism is elevated for hours after you complete the workout


Channel your inner sprinter; plyo's will build your speed and give you that fast finishing kick! :)

Let’s get into the hops and jumping variety of plyo’s:

* Rocket jumps: Start standing with feet about shoulder width apart. Bend down into a squat and touch the ground with your hands and then blast up into the air, extending your arms up over your head. Reach for the sky and try to get as high off the ground as you can. Get back down into the squat and blast again. Start with one set of 10.

* Single leg butt-kicker leaps: Start balancing on your right foot and keep your left leg bent and off the ground for all of this jump. For this jump you want to achieve two things: clear as much distance as you can AND get your right leg up high into the air and kick your bum. You will look funny doing this, but that’s okay. Do 10 jumps on your right leg and switch to your left.

* Star jumps: Similar in look to jumping jacks, the star jump is different in that you will raise your arms and legs out at the same time. Start standing feet together and arms at your side; jump up into the air, kick your legs out to the sides and raise your arms up until they meet over your head. When you land you want you finish in the same position as you started. As you build power you’ll want to test yourself to see how high you can jump and how far apart you can get your legs during each jump. Do a set of 10 to start.

* Single leg step-up blasts: Find a bench that when you place your right foot on it your quad is about parallel to the ground and both knee and hip bent at 90 degrees. Start in this position and with you left leg still on the ground, step-up and transfer your bodyweight onto your right leg and swing your left leg up towards your chest as you go. Once you are standing on the bench keep the step-up momentum going and then blast off with your right leg into a jump. Try to jump as high as you can, land back down on your right leg and then lower down into the starting position. Your arms during this will swing in the opposite arm/opposite leg motion you do while running. Do a set of 10 with your right leg and switch to your left.

* Quick feet bench taps: Use a bench the same height as you did the step-up blasts; start facing the bench with both feet on the ground. Here you will alternate quickly tapping the bench with your right foot and then your left. You do this in a continued hopping motion; right tap, left tap, right tap, etc. The aim is to keep moving and to get those feet to fire off the ground, to the bench, and back down again as quickly as possible without losing balance. Your arms will follow the opposite arm/opposite leg motions you do as running. Start with a set of 20 toe-taps; that would be 10 taps for each foot.

These are 5 great jumping plyometrics to get you started in building a routine. If you’re new to plyo’s, remember it is QUALITY over QUANTITYand if you need to slow down or take longer breaks to complete them right that is better than doing more sloppily. Doing them with poor form will only re-instill bad habits and set you up for an injury. Secondly, for your first few times only do a set of 10, you may feel like it was ‘easy’ but typically you want to walk away from a session tired but not demolished; with plyo’s the fatigue sets in later and even if you don’t feel like it, the muscle tissues were broken down.


Do a plyometric routine after your hard workout day; finish your cool-down them move into those plyo's.

For runners, here are points to remember:
* Do plyo’s on days you already did a hard workout. It sounds off, but you don’t want to add plyo’s to your easy days because that will defeat the purpose, you’ll never recover and then come your hard workout days you’ll be spent and tired.

* Start with doing plyo’s only 2, up to 3, times a week with at least one day between them. Start with only 1 set of 10 for the first week, if not the first few, and work your way up to 3 sets of 10.

* Allow full recovery between each set. You want to be fully recovered between each set so you can give each jump the most power; you’re working on your explosiveness not your endurance here…channel your inner sprinter.

* Mix and Match: If you’re doing more than one plyo session a week, do jumps and hops one day and switch to the leaps and bounds routine the next time you do them. Get a good variety of what you’re doing, as with any other training philosophy.

Once you’re done with your plyo’s be sure to refuel like a champ within 30 minutes to get the recovery window!

1) What’s your favorite Easter type candy…are you all about the chocolate eggs, the Peeps, or were you one of those kids who actually looked for the real hard-boiled ones and ate those?

2) Do you do plyo’s and if so, which are your top picks? If you don’t, would you be willing to try them?

3) If you don’t do plyo’s, what do you do to work on your power and speed?

4) Anyone race this weekend?

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More Great Core Moves: Why the core is all the rage and worth the face time

The core is all the rage. I know I’m constantly harping on how important core work is for runners…it will help improve your form, efficiency, reduce injury risks, and yea, a stronger middle looks good too. I’m hardly the only one and in the last few years the ‘core’ and core exercises have really taken off, if they were a celebrity they’d be dominating the Star and US Weekly rag tag rounds.

girl in paris

yea, look at me, I'm the Core and I'm just too cool like that.

Another core article caught my eye today over at, ‘Four Key Core Exercises for Runners’. I’m not going to lie, I’m sometimes a little hesitant to read these types of articles (more-so from general fitness magazines) because they tend to rehash the same exercises again and again or some of them are a bit watered down and would be too ‘easy’ for the consistent runner. But I give more weight to the Competitor and Running Times articles than I would say, Runner’s World or InShape for Her.

Yes, the exercises were ones that I’ve done or seen before BUT I actually like them and in fact do the plank on a multi-weekly basis. Again, you can read the article HERE but I’d like to share some tweaks or modifications to the exercises or build on them.

* Plank: okay, for beginners the standard, hold the downward facing plank (balance on forearms and toes) is great; just make sure you’re sucking in your stomach and keeping those muscles tight and engaged.
Make it harder: keep the same position but do leg lifts; start with a set of 10 lifts with each leg and build up to two or three sets.
Back and side planks: planks can be done facing upwards where you’re balancing on your heels and forearms, for this one make sure your butt isn’t sagging to the ground, you still want your body in alignment. For side planks it’s then balancing on your left forearm and outside of your left foot, keeping your body in a line and don’t let your hips sag; repeat with opposite side. I did a full plank workout HERE.

* Russian Twists: I actually really like this one and have recommended it to people before. They have it where you are sitting, balancing on your tail bone and with your feet slighting elevated off the ground. With the weight you then twist left to center to right and back to center.
Make it harder: I like doing the Lunging Russian Twist; standing up and holding a weight (10lbs to start), step out into a lunge with your right foot in front. After you drop into the lunge you’ll hold it there and twist to the right with the weight in your arm. Twist back to center and then step back out of the lunge. Repeat with the left foot in the lunge and then twist to the left. Repeat so you do a total of 20 lunges; start with one set and build up to two or three.

* V-sits: They talk about doing the ‘hollow rock’ in the article but I like this one more. Lie down flat on your back arms straight up behind your head and legs together. Raise both your legs and upper body up until you’re balaning on your tail bone and in a ‘V’ position. You’ll want to make sure your arms stay straight and even with your ears. Lower back down and repeat. This one is tricky and always makes me work because of the whole balance issue; but do the best you can and the learning curve is pretty quick, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll improve. Start with getting 10 to 15 done and build up to two or three sets. Here the emphasis is quality over quantity…10 (or even 5) perfect ones are better than 15 sloppy ones.

* Pilates 100: This one, again isn’t in the article, but is one of the staples of Pilates; start lying back just as the v-sit but this time your arms will be straight down at your sides. Raise your upper body and arms a few inches off the ground and and lift your legs up about a foot or 18 inches off the ground. Keep your legs together but in order to open up your hips, keep your heels together but roll your feet outward into a little ‘v’ shape. Contract your core and now what you’ll do is take your arms and pump them rapidly up and down at your sides. Raise and lower them only a few inches but really keep your core taught and engaged, keep your feet in the ‘v’ shape. Count out 100 little pumps with your arms and then lower back down to the mat. This looks super easy and you might not ‘feel’ like you’re working all the much during it but this move works the deep core muscles and if you do it right you’ll feel sore later.

Try to do core work two to three times a week; honestly it can be a super quick routine, I mean 10-15 minutes after you run or while you’re watching TV…we’ve all got 10 extra minutes, right?! :)

Well, I’ve given more face time to that spotlight hogging core, but it’s one fitness crazed celeb who I think is worth getting press…it’s not just a quickie Kim K hook-up or wedding.

1) What are some of your top core exercises?

2) Do you do core work regularly? If so, what are some of the benefits you’ve seen?

3) There are always fitness fads or particular topics that everyone seems to be talking about a lot; core work is one that I think merits it. What are some other topics or tips that you’ve seen a lot of lately and do you like/do/use/back them?
I’ve seen a lot of people doing these egg puff things, whipping them up like meringue toppings, and seasoning them differently so they are like faux-cookies or sweets. I haven’t tried them though…I think I’d still want a cookie. :)

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Farleks Aren’t Just For Workouts – Surging in Races to Break Your Competition

Fartleking. The term probably calls to mind particular workouts, but fartleking isn’t something you do just in workouts. If you watched the US Olympic Marathon Trials and took a look at the splits the women were running (or watched any of the post-race interviews) you’d see that their miles were kind of all over the place. They opened up over 6 for the first mile, then ping-ponged around the mid-5′s throughout; they were farleking.
running race
Why is there farleking in a race? Well, a race can be run for two reasons: to get a fast time or go for the win. The latter is a strategic race and typically seen in the big time races where titles and top three finishing slots are more important than the eventual time. Fartleking, or throwing surges in, is one tactic to break your competition.

Getting back to last weekend’s marathon, Amy Hastings surged to the lead after mile 18 because she knew that it was down to four runners and if she dropped the pace she could potentially drop one of the women, or at least develop a gap. Mentally, getting a gap on your competition can sometimes be enough to beat them before the finish line. Getting gapped or being stuck in ‘no man’s land’ is difficult and can sometimes be the nail in the coffin for a racer.

Hastings wasn’t able to gap the other women because they responded and were just stronger on that day; but that doesn’t mean that throwing surges in late in the race isn’t a smart strategy. Another reason is because fartleking a race is not the ‘easy’ way to get a fast time and it’s tough on the body. Your body runs best (and your PR’s will usually come from) running even paces; when you drastically swing from a fast pace to a markedly slower one your body never is able to get into a real rhythm. If a runner isn’t used to fartleking, it’s even harder for them to keep pace or hang on; the advantage goes to the one putting in the surges.

The lesson? If you’re able to train your body to fartlek, or surge, in a race and hold it together you can use it to your advantage to try and break your competition.

How? Do it in practice; get yourself used to varied paces. There are TONS of different ways to fartlek outside of the traditional one minute hard/one minute easy formula.

Try this – Finish Fast 800′s Workout:

* Warm-up
* 6-8 x 800 meters – Run the intervals comfortably hard through 600 meters but then for the last 200 REALLY pick it up and hammer to the end
* 400 meter easy recovery jog between each one and finish with a cool-down

Another Variation – Slow/Fast 800′s:

* Warm-up
* 6-8 x 800 meters – But alternate the pace of each 400 – The first 400 done at what you’d do a tempo run at or just slightly slower, the second one done at about 3k pace
* 400 meter recovery between and cool-down

*** To make this one more advanced do the 800′s continuous for 4 miles, starting with the ‘slow’ 400; the focus is to really pop those hard 400′s but still keep the’slow’ 400′s faster than an easy/medium effort…even the ‘slow’ 400′s start to get tough by the end!
track runners
Finally, Greg McMillan did a great artlcie for Running Times on the ‘Move and Match’ kind of fartlek workout. Here is an example of having a team or training partner to help add unpredictability to a workout, simulating what would happen in a race.

The bottom line is breaking your competition is all a part of racing, one way to do that is to throw in a surge, or multiple surges. You do it right and you could put a gap on them, break them mentally, or at least tire them out. If you’re used to surging you’ll be better able to handle it and keep the race in your control.

1) Do you do farlek workouts?

2) Do you do farleks or surging in races?

3) Have you tried varying the pace of standard interval workouts like in the examples above? Getting used to finishing an interval even faster is a good habit to keep in mind.

4) What do you tend to think about during your hard workouts?
I try to remember to stay relaxed, drop my arms, and stay smooth. If I’m running with someone I like to be right behind them and I just stare right at their back and try not to let any distance get between us.

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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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Cross-training — Longer Intervals and Endurance Based Workout

Cross-training. I have a love/hate relationship with it. The thing is, I know all of the benefits: cardio without the impact, a safe way to supplement ‘miles’, staying in shape during an injury…ahhh, that last one. See, that is where the hate part comes in.

chained animals

I just feel a little chained down when cross-training...but that's not fair to hate on the machine...haha!

To be fair, it is really just mischanneled anger that gets sloughed off on cross-training…sorry, x-training. Usually whenever I’m on the elliptical, the bike, the crazy scary gauntlet-style stair climber, aqua-jogging, etc., it’s because I’m forced into it. My body is on the machine but my mind keeps drifting to where I want to be…RUNNING!

But there are plenty of other reasons to be on that machine and many of them have nothing to do with injuries. You can be logging miles but still getting a workout done on the elliptical, they can go hand and hand; it’s just that even when I’m not injured I’d still rather be running. Hehe, oh me and my little running affliction.

All that said; if you are going to use that cross-training to its full potential (as in it’s supposed to be a hard workout day, not just getting in some steady cardio) you can do it a few ways. A big one is with intervals.

Intervals can kick your butt on the track/roads and they can do the same anywhere else…don’t believe me check back midway though a session and see if you change your answer. Intervals also help beat the boredom that can come with a stationary machine; though I will warn you that those recovery minutes seem to miraculously fly by much faster than the hard one…funny how that works!

roller blader girl

Heck, you could even go rollerblading for your cross-training!

I’ve done a few cross-training interval workouts on the Workouts Tab, and here is another. This one is more strength/endurance based; you can do it on any machine, even aqua-jogging, just put in the effort. (My choice would be the elliptical but that’s just me!)

* 10-15 minute warm-up
* 5 minutes hard
— you want to be working the whole time, those middle minutes the mind can drift; to refocus and keep yourself honest I usually peek at the RPM’s of the machine and see how I’m doing, if it starts lagging I try and pick it back up. Get competitive with yourself and see how high you can get them and sustain it there.
* 2 minutes recovery – just keep moving, allow yourself to recover
* 5 mintues hard
* 2 minutes recovery
* 5 minutes hard
* 2 minutes recovery
* 5 minutes hard
— last long, hard one, so push through!
* 2 minutes recovery
* 2 minutes hard
— this one is shorter so try and get moving a little faster; though it’s at the end and you’re tired…but just remember you’re ALMOST done!
* cool-down

***** if you are training for a long event you can make this one a little more endurance-based with this: instead of the standard 15 minute warm-up you will make yours 45 minutes but break it up into 3×15 minute chunks. The first 15 minutes will just be your easy warm-up, the next 15 minutes pick it up each 5 minutes until you’re going harder than ‘easy’ and just below a ‘moderate’ level, for the last 15 minutes keep picking it up each 5 minutes until the last bit of time you are going at about a threshold pace. From here, take 3-5 minutes to regroup and then go into the interval workout.

That’s it for now, folks! I hope your week is going along well and remember that cross-training is your friend. Even though it may drudge up ghosts of injuries past, it’s not fair that we dump all that hate on it…that said, it’s still okay to begrudge it just a little…I mean running is still the best. :)

1) Do you prefer cross-training to music or watching TV?
I’d say for just steady cardio probably TV, but music if I’m doing a harder workout.

2) What’s your cross-training of choice?

3) How do you supplement or use cross-training in your workout line-up?

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This Runnerchick Can’t Jump, BUT Plyometrics are Your Friend – Part I Bounds & Skips

I don’t jump. I can’t really, anything that I do would only qualify as a hop at best. In my one-time attempt at the high jump in junior high PE, I made the running start, I tried to clear the bar, failed miserably, and then proceeded to roll off the back end of the mat and onto the concrete. Nice.

pizza flop

Epic fail.

I’m pretty sure, actually I know it to be true, that the correlation between my lack of any speed and jumping ability are interrelated. It’s because I don’t have a single, not one, fast twitch muscle fiber in my body.

I’ve worked on it though in the past, diligently like a good little coachable athlete. That entailed 200’s to boot, hill work, pulling weights while I ran (this was hilarious and I wish I had pictures…anecdote for another day perhaps), weight room, and of course plyo’s.

Plyometrics. Short, all-out bursts of exertion, anaerobic, all fast-twitch baby. Hopping, jumping, bounding, leaping, you get the picture. Typically this is what you’d think of as only ‘sprinter’ or field eventer (is that a word?) work, but if you’re a distance runner and you turn a blind eye to plyo’s you’d be missing out.

[Actually, plyometrics are great for anyone, and I semi-cringe in writing this because in my writing of this I’m not trying to cater to the weight-loss masses or turn into one of ‘those blogs’ where they talk about working out for the sole reason to lose weight, but here is a quick fact: plyometrics are among certain activities that rev up your metabolism more-so than just going out for a steady run. They create something called the ‘afterburn effect’ too which keeps your metabolism elevated for hours after your workout is done as well; this is similar to what happens after you do a hard, interval session. Plyo’s will also give you more definition and improve anyone’s athletic abilities if done right, that’s why so many sports teams incorporate them into their training.]

Other things you need to know about plyo’s,( other than that they hurt…hehe) is that the aim is quality over quantity. Here it’s all about giving it your ALL for the number of rep’s that you do, and when you first start out you only want to begin with one set of each exercise and slowly build up. The thing is, you might not feel like you worked ‘hard’ enough your first few times out, but the next day and those that follow, that is when you’ll feel the soreness.

The reasoning behind why you need to do each one precise and not get sloppy is tri-fold: if you do them with poor form you’ll get into a bad habit and then repeating that is only instilling poor muscle memory, if you aren’t doing them right you’re not reaping the full benefits, and finally, you’ll get hurt. Plyo’s, if you do them right will make you more injury resistant but if you do them wrong you can easily hurt yourself, pull something, tear something, no good. So if you can only do a few correctly, stop there and wait until you’re strong enough to add more; don’t just do five ones perfectly and then ten more junky ones, it’s not worth it. This is why it’s smart to have someone watch you the first few times to make sure you’re doing them right.

Plyometrics take it out of your body too and the best times to do them are early in the season, during the off-season, or during what would be considered a base period. Typically you wouldn’t do them during racing season, by then you’ve pretty much put in all the work anyways. So, early-season timing is a great time to bust them out…and lookie here, that’s where we are. :)

optical illusion

There are tons and tons of different plyo’s you can do, so this one will be a series. First on the agenda will be bounding and skipping. Bounding is sort of like exaggerated running, you want to explode off of the ground here. Skipping, don’t be shy boys, it’s not just for girls on the schoolyard. The difference between the two is that for bounds you land on the opposite foot, for skipping you will land on the same foot as you started.

For this series you will aim to make each distance of bounds 30-40 meters in length; not too long because you want to make each bound exact, hard, and you’ll be burning by the end. Start out with one set of each the first week, you can do two the second, and work up to four sets. Plyo’s should be done at most three times a week and on non-sequential days. Don’t do them the day before a hard workout and probably not the day before your long run either; doing them after your hard sessions is one suggestion. That way your easy, recovery days allow you to do just that.

*Bounds for distance: The aim here is to cover as much distance as you can with each bound, think of eating up that ground below you. You want to get as much air between those legs; when you toe off, extend the opposite leg as much as you can before landing.

*Bounds for height: Here you want to get as far off the ground as possible, all about the altitude. Try to get in as many bounds as you can in the distance because each one will be shorter, just make it higher.

* Skipping for distance: Similar to the bounds, but this time with skipping; really push to see how far each skip can get you.

* Skipping for height: Try to see how many skips you can get; and really reach for those clouds, friends. ;)

* A-Skip: This one is about speed and agility rather than trying to go for distance or height. When you skip, you want to be extra mindful of coordinating your opposite arm and leg to go up and down at the same time. Lift your knee up for the skip, get it up and then back down to the ground as fast as you can while still keeping the motion controlled. Again, if you have to slow it down at first to do it RIGHT that’s much better than doing them faster but sloppily.

* B-Skip: This one is different from the A in that you will extend your leg as you skip. When you’ve gotten your leg to the top of your ‘skip’, kick your foot out in front of you, and then pull it back as you cycle back and land. As you get better at these you want to increase the speed in which you do them.

A few last things: As you work up to more sets of these, alternate the foot that you start off with. So if you did your first set of bounds leading with the right leg, do the second set leading with the left.

Finally, give yourself a full recovery between each set. With distance training it’s our tendency to think that shorter rest is better and will get us more fit, but we’re not tapping into our cardio here, it’s all anaerobic and for this you really want to make sure you’re fully rested and recovered before going into the next exercise. That way you can really put your all into each set and make it your best!

Alright folks, I’m out…but for my friends here that aren’t necessarily on a team, plyo’s are for everyone because it will make you stronger, faster, and improve your running. Then, again under my aforementioned disclaimer, it will give you some awesome definition too and that metabolic boost…all the more reason why refueling immediately afterwards is imperative!

1) Jumping, leaping, bounding, plyo’s; love them or hate them? Or have you never tried them?

Not going to lie, I hate them, but it’s usually the things we hate the most that are the best for us, right? ;)

2) Favorite refuel after a hard workout?

Ummmm, favorite choice or the best choice? Hehe.

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