BEST STRENGTH-TRAINING EXERCISES TO BE A BETTER RUNNER
I love to run. But I didn't know this about myself until I turned 50.
It was only then--as the post-menopausal pounds piled on and I realized that something had to be done and quickly--that I bought myself a pair of running shoes, a cool pair of leggings, the perfect bra, and set off down the street at a rather slow but steady pace . . . and never looked back.
Here's something else I learned about myself since turning 50: I'm an endurance runner, not a sprinter. The longer the distance, the more I love it, hills and all. My husband thinks I'm crazy.
Since all this post-50 self-discovery, I've run in three New York City Marathons, numerous 5Ks, 10Ks, and a few half-marathons for good measure. The thrill of getting a race t-shirt and sometimes a medal (not for winning, just for running) is seductive and addictive. And hey! it keeps my weight where I want it, my health check numbers in the "really good" range, my bones strong and boy, do I sleep well. Oh, and did I mention that my skin always glows after a good run?
This year, I'm planning to run in the Edinburgh Marathon at the end of May (It's a flat course! Yay!) and yep, the NYC Marathon again in November. I've become so competitive (with myself!) that my goal is to beat my last marathon finish time (which was better than the last one, and which was better than the one before that) in Edinburgh, and possibly in NYC (which is by all measures a much harder course). But this is going to take some intensive training and a new strategy.
Up until now, I only focused on the running. Sure, I do my daily push-ups, planks and squats, but I also knew that smarter strength-training had to be integrated into my training program if I had any hope of becoming a stronger runner.
The first thing I did was turn to a terrific book -- Strength Training Exercises for Women -- by fitness guru Joan Pagano. It's full of the best exercises we can all do to get and stay strong for life (complete with photos and clear, easy-to-follow instructions). This book is the best one I've seen on exercises that are specific to women's bodies.
The next thing I did was contact Joan to get her view on what I should really focus on during the coming months to specifically make me a stronger runner and less likely to develop any injuries. Lucky for me, Joan also lives in New York City (a few blocks away from me, as it turns out!), so we were able to walk in Central Park while chatting about my plan. Here's what she recommended:
Exercises for my upper body to overcome the tendency to hunch forward as we're running, especially when getting tired: push-ups (try modified first, right, and work your way up to a full push-up), seated lat row, and front and side shoulder raises
Exercises to strengthen my lower body to run faster and more efficiently: squats with weights, the one-legged squat (that's Joan doing this exercise in the photo, right), front lunge, and calf raises
Exercises for my core to maintain good posture while running: the plank (my favorite exercise of all time--read this to find out why!) and prone back extension.
Whether you're a runner or a walker, these exercises will make you stronger and will also help keep bones dense, which is essential if you don't want to succumb to osteoporosis. All can be done at home; you just need a few free weights and (highly recommended) a copy of this fabulous book so you can let Joan show you how it's done! (Click here to get your copy.)
Stay tuned for regular updates on my training!
We can't control getting older . . . but we can control how we do it!