Thursday, April 21, 2011

I Hate Strength Training, But Its Important

I consistently lifted weights from the time I was 16 until I was in my late 20s. Then I started training for Ultras and my passion for throwing around iron quickly transitioned into covering miles. I have tried time and time again to get back into strength training as I believe it could make me a better runner. Time and time again I have pledged to do better and take time from running to cross train. The problem is I always fail. I LOVE to run. I can wake up at 5 am to run in the dark and watch the sun come up, no problem. Getting up pre-dawn to lift weights, no thank you. I will take my sleep any day over that. Maybe my problem is rooted in the lack of progress I see when lifting. If I run consistently I see measured improvement in energy, endurance, resting heart rate, body fat, and the list goes on. When I would lift consistently I did not see any real improvement. So what if I could bench press 10 more pounds this month than last month. Big deal, what does that get me in the real world, nothing. Covering miles, now that is something useful in the real world. 

It is not my intension to get scientific here. I am going to go on the assumption that strength training can make you a better runner. There are many extreme cases of this. Here is an article on a guy who only did the basic crossfit workout each day (with no additional running) and was able to run 80 miles in 24 hours. On his blog,, ultra author Neal Jamison has written about and shared others experience with crossfit and ultra running numerous times (here and here) including Adam Eidson's 5:19 finish at Holiday Lake after running only 7 miles in the prior 3 months. Those are some pretty amazing feats for non runners and there has to be something too it. I am not about to go and take up crossfit. No time or desire for that, but I think we can learn a lesson from this. Strength training is important.

Backing up that notion is an article written by Dr. Bill Henderson over on Dr. Henderson sites some studies where strength training of the legs made the subjects better at running. This is attributed to better running economy. I think we are on to something here.

So where does that leave us runners who despise lifting weights? I am a firm believe that to be a better runner you need to put in the miles. So we must find the balance between running and strength training. The balance where weights do not interfere too much with running and everything else we all have going on. This is a question we all must answer. I am taking the approach of more is less. My main strength workout is based on research presented by author and Master RKC Kenneth Jay in his book Viking Warrior Conditioning. Kenneth lays out protocols for increasing strength and VO2Max using the kettlebell snatch. Unless you have trained with Russian Kettlebells in the past this may not be a good fit. You must be proficient in the RK style of snatch or you will get injured. I am also going to do some basic movements, including pull ups, pushups, and squats. I will count this a success if I can get these workouts in twice a week. Ideally you would do the VO2Max 3 to 4 times.

I will keep you posted on how this goes for me. Hopefully it will work out and I will not fall off the strength wagon as my mileage and time on the road/trails increase.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fun With Numbers - Analysis of my Average Weekly Mileage

I have been battling a calf injury for the past 2 months. This has left me with a little extra time to look at some mileage data. I started training for my first ultra in the fall of 2007. Since then I have kept track of my weekly mileage. I decided to produce some charts based on my 16 and 32 week averages. Below are those charts.

16 Week Average

32 Week Average

As one can quickly see my average mileage per week is at a low point right now. Part of this is due to some time off from injury, the rest is due to taking most of last summer and a few scattered weeks last fall off. On the contrary my race times are getting better. The last Ultra I ran was the Holiday Lake 50K and I cut off around 25 minutes from 2 years ago (also the catalyst of my injuries). Maybe if I can stay healthy and get my mileage back up I can make a run at a 100 this fall. Injury is going to dictate this. The first part of 2011 is lost, but God willing the rest of 2011 will be better.

If your interested - I produced these charts and keep my weekly mileage log in Google Documents. This "cloud based" service works well for non-technical spreadsheets and allows me access from any web-enabled computer or device. Drop me a comment if you want to know more about my setup.