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Strength Training

Marathon Musings: 5 Strength-Training Myths for Runners, Debunked

Written on August 7, 2014 at 3:22 pm , by

When you commit to running a marathon, it’s pretty obvious that you’ll be doing one thing a lot: running. But what about all the other facets of fitness? I knew going into this that I’d be regularly cross-training (spinning, Barry’s Bootcamp and yin-style yoga are my faves), tons of foam rolling and squeezing in strength training. But I wanted to make sure that injury wasn’t waiting for me down the road, so I hit up my coach—Clif Bar pro athlete Stephanie Howe—for advice once more. Turns out there are a lot of myths out there, and she was there to bust ‘em all.

Myth: You gotta give all or nothing.
I used to regularly freak out that I wasn’t using weights enough, and became paranoid that injury was right around the corner when my work schedule only allowed me to hit the weights once or twice a week. Full disclosure: I’m a worry wart. When you’re training for a big race (um, I’d like to say this marathon is big), 1-3 times per week is OK. As a pro athlete who trains for 50-milers and beyond, Howe determines her gym schedule based on where she’s at in the season. “In the off-season, I try to get there 2-3 times per week, but when I’m training, it’s usually only once.” Once you find what fits for you, though, stick to it, she warns. “Consistency is key. I go to a strength training for runners class every week, and meeting a friend keeps me motivated and accountable.” Anyone want to join me? Tweet me @FITNESSsamantha.

Myth: Running does the same thing to muscles that strength training does.
When you’re sore, you’re sore. Doesn’t matter how you got there, right? Wrong. Not only will strength training help balance your body and prevent injury, but it will also give your body a break from the wear and tear it gets from pounding so much pavement. “Running is a catabolic activity, meaning it breaks down the body for energy,” explains Howe. “Strength training is an anabolic activity that stimulates the muscles to build up.” So in order to reach marathon-running perfection, I need to have a balance of both.

Myth: Abs are the only focus during strength training.
Yes, your abs are really important, especially when training for such a long distance (it’s where a lot of your energy comes from). But it’s not the only area that should be ready for action. “If you just focus on the core, you miss many other large muscle groups, like your arms and legs,” says Howe. Fun fact: the leg alone has 13 muscles in it, and well, they’re used quite a lot in running. So giving equal attention to other body parts not only covers your bases, but it helps prevent muscle imbalances. When you do that, you prevent injury.

Myth: It’s OK to lift weights on back-to-back days.
There’s one big thing I’ve noticed in my training schedule week-to-week: I’m rarely doing a “hard” workout two days in a row. So if I hit up bootcamp on Monday, I can count on an easy run being on deck for Tuesday. What gives? “You need to give your body time to recover and build back up between sessions,” explains Howe. “All the changes happen when you are are resting. If you don’t give your body that time, then you are breaking it down even further.” And nobody wants that.

Myth: You should avoid heavy weights.
It may seem counterintuitive—why grab heavy dumbbells when I want to be light and speedy?—but lifting heavier is pretty important, says Howe. ”It sparks neuromuscular changes that will make your body more efficient,” explains Howe. “These changes happen independently, meaning the benefits are found without changes in muscle size.” Translation: lifting heavy weights for a lower amount of reps, paired with running, will not result in Schwarzenegger arms, but rather a stronger bod and faster finish times. Noted.

And just for good measure, I wanted to know: what are the best strengthening exercises for runners? Howe recommends a lot of basics that focus on your foundation muscles (abs, back, glutes, lats, traps), arms and legs. “I grab heavy weights and regularly do bench presses, lat pull downs, squats and lunges,” she says. Make sure to focus on any imbalances, too. “I have weak hips, so I try to include a hip exercise each time I lift. And always take time to stretch.” Girl just won Western States (that’s 100 miles), so her plan must be a solid one.

Photo by James Farrell

More from FITNESS: 

5 Mistakes First-Time Marathoners Make

Get Your 26.2-Mile Training Plan! 

The New Way to Strength Train

We Tried it: Reaching the SUMMIT at Exceed Physical Culture

Written on November 20, 2013 at 9:06 am , by

Push it to the limit! Thanks to Exceed, I was sore for days! (Photo courtesy of Exceed Physical Culture)

Written by Alena Hall, editorial intern

Upper East Side boutique fitness studio Exceed Physical Culture has received a lot of buzz for its butt-kicking abilities this year, so I couldn’t help but jump at the opportunity to see what all the hype was about. And after taking the studio’s signature SUMMIT class, I have to admit—I totally get it.

You know how they say a performer really works the stage? Well James, our trainer for the morning, really worked us around the studio. From jumping rope and swinging kettlebells to cycling through high-intensity workout stations, I never quite figured out where to stash my water bottle! The room kept moving, the music kept playing and we kept working.

The clean, industrial feel of the space helped us all focus that much more on the burn we wanted to feel. We aimed to complete as many reps of each exercise as possible—sometimes for 30 seconds, other times until James decided to have us try another move. Integrating medicine balls, BOSU balls and bodyweight strength training, this strength-cardio combo workout offered true variety. And with James, there was no lack of encouraging words and reminders of how strong we all are.

Most classes max out at 20 people, creating a motivating and competitive environment that pushes each athlete to really go all in. Our class, which was about a third of that size, felt more like a small-group training session full of intensity and drive to squeeze in every last rep. We worked hard and non-stop for 50 minutes and as exhausted as my body felt when it was all over, I couldn’t believe that much time had gone by. I guess it just goes to show what can happen when you constantly focus on a task that never stops changing.

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We Tried It: Michelle Bridges’ 12 Week Body Transformation

Written on October 29, 2013 at 10:09 am , by

All smiles during a sweatfest? That’s Michelle Bridges for you! (Photo courtesy of Michelle Bridges’ 12 Week Body Transformation)

Written by Alena Hall, editorial intern

Michelle Bridges means business. In addition to appearing on television and authoring eight health and fitness books, The Biggest Loser: Australia star trainer has helped people across the globe lose a collective 1.6 million pounds with her online weight loss program 12 Week Body Transformation. With the program’s United States launch approaching in January 2014, we just had to try this Aussie’s at-home workout. The FITNESS verdict? Two thumbs up.

We met up with Bridges during her recent visit to New York City for a fat-blasting, 30-minute interval-training session, and man did we break a sweat! Her one-step-at-a-time weight loss strategy resonated in her workout design, which broke the routine down into 5-minute intervals. Within each interval, we pushed through 10 different exercises for 30 seconds at a time, earning one minute of much-needed rest before starting again.

Incorporating cardio and total body strength-training moves, the workout utilized pure bodyweight training to target every single muscle. The intervals also alternated the dominant muscle groups every 30 seconds to keep the body strong and balanced. Bridges combined old-school moves in inventive ways, like plank jack pushups and reverse lunge front snap kicks. And as if burpees weren’t already challenging enough, she had us lift and hold alternating arms and legs during the plank portion. Oh yeah, we felt the burn.

Tough moves aside, the format of the workout made time fly by. With only a few repeating moves, the routine required constant focus and kept the body guessing. And as the body fatigued, it felt far easier to dedicate 100 percent effort to an exercise when we knew it was only for half a minute. The mini goal design not only feels more doable, but also achieves a more effective workout. As far as at-home workouts go, Michelle Bridges knows how to help you make the most of little time and persevere through the pain.

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How to Pick the Perfect Personal Trainer

Written on September 10, 2013 at 10:12 am , by

Maybe it’s the slew of emails and pitches editors get a day, but lately it seems like everyone is an expert at something. That’s far from the case, says Paul Juris, ED. D., executive director of the Cybex Research Institute. Even if the person is certified, there are some critical checkpoints you should look out for when choosing a trainer for your own fitness goals. See what he has to say below.

Oh, and did we mention that Juris used to be the strength coach for the Dallas Mavericks? If there is anyone who knows a thing or two about using personal training to reach your goals, it’s him!

More from FITNESS: What’s Your Fitness Motivation?

Josh Holland Talks TechnoGym: One System, 200+ Moves

Written on March 1, 2013 at 11:11 am , by

Check out Josh’s perfect chest press form! (Photo courtesy of Bryan Bedder/Getty Images North America)

Josh Holland is all about educating his clientele on leading a fit, healthy and nutritious lifestyle. His mantra? “Knowledge is POWER.” As a former professional overseas basketball player, third degree black belt and London 2012 Accredited Olympic Trainer, this guy certainly knows what he’s talking about. Oh, and he has been working with Madonna since 2009. No big deal! That’s why when we heard that he was working with TechnoGym’s new Kinesis One training system, we couldn’t resist getting in on the action. Here are three things you should know about the Kinesis station before trying one out at a gym near you:

  1. The design is one of a kind. “Compared to other cable systems, Kinesis is easier to use, quicker to set up, more compact, extremely versatile, beautiful and available in various finishes,” said Josh. Thanks to Technogym’s FullGravity technology, users can simply vary the resistance and angle of the pulley movement for a full range of motion. Translation? Ultimate results.
  2. Kinesis improves balance, core, coordination and muscle strength. “When working out on Kinesis you will have to stabilize your body, whether you are standing or sitting, in order to perform any exercise.” Hint: the farther away, the greater the resistance. Unlike your typical cable machine, the smooth, natural feel of these cable cords make your workout jerk-free!
  3. Zero-impact means natural but effective movement. “I love the versatility and limitless possibilities of exercise programs that can be performed on the Kinesis,” said Josh. “It’s perfect for circuit training, supersets and quick exercise transitions.” Kill two muscles with one move by adding a squat to an overhead press (hop on a Bosu for an extra balancing bang!) or lunge post-bicep curl. For resistance workout-spiration, check out our Refine-inspired Sculpt Sexy Arms Express from our February issue.

Now Tell Us: Are you a resistance training fan? Would you give Kinesis One a go?

Getting Hitched? Here’s Your Bridal Body Breakdown

Written on February 8, 2013 at 10:00 am , by

Here comes the (totally toned) bride! (Photo courtesy Jupiter Images)

It’s no wonder February is considered the month of love. According to the National Association of Bridal Consultants, it is also officially National Wedding Month–due to the number of couples who start planning for the big day. And with an estimated one million couples who got engaged over the holidays, you might be one of them! If you’re planning a summer wedding, check out this move of the month plan from Stephanie Walker and Sarah Ashenden, personal trainers from Fitness Formula Clubs, located in Chicago. To start, they recommend strength training for 30 minutes twice a week along with 30 minutes of cardio 3-5 days per week. Get started with the first move below and then add on a different exercise each month.

February: Triceps Dip

Since you’ll be standing with your back to all your guests for your ceremony, you want the back of your arms to look sleek and toned. Sit on a weight bench with legs slightly bent, feet flat on floor. Place hands on bench by thighs and press palms into the bench to lift your butt. Slide your butt off edge and bend elbows to drop hips 3 inches from floor. Straighten arms and slide hips back without sitting down. Repeat 8 to 10 times for 3 reps. Read more

Professional Freeskier Roz Groenewoud Teams Up with Target and Chats About the 2014 Winter Olympics!

Written on November 5, 2012 at 1:00 pm , by

As part of her partnership with Target, Roz will layer up with the C9 line to keep her warm when taking on the half pipe. (Photo courtesy of Target)

Imagine participating in a sport that lasts only 30 seconds. That’s exactly what Roz Groenewoud does, except she’s managed to master the sport of professional freeskiing. Last year Groenewoud won the X Games both in the U.S. and Europe and this year, she’s excited to not only try to hang on to her spot on the podium, but also to gear up for the debut of freeskiing at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. As Target’s newest Elite Athlete (joining the ranks of snowboarder Shaun White) we got the chance to chat with Groenewoud on how she’s getting ready for the qualifying trials and why being nervous before a run is a good thing!

How do you train for freeskiing?

The half pipe takes about 30 seconds to get down, so I do lots of plyometics and biking, things that work on bursts of speed. Right now I’m training at home (in Squamish, BC) and I’m not doing anything on the snow. I’m just working on getting stronger. In the summer strength training is lots of lower body reps like squats and dead lifts with less weight and then when the winter season gets closer it changes to less reps with more weight. I do a ton of trampoline training too, especially practicing how to fall safely.

What are some tips for when you fall so that you don’t get injured?

First, you have to protect your head. I wear bump pads, a back protector and a mouth guard all the time but it’s important to keep your limbs in. If not, your ski could snag something and that’s how you can get really hurt. Read more

A Dailey Method Worth Trying

Written on September 6, 2012 at 11:24 am , by

I had never realized how little I engage my core throughout the day or my lack of a proper posture—or should I say “neutral spine”—until I had the privilege of trying The Dailey Method with founder, Jill Dailey. Slouching, be gone!

With a background in dance and Pilates, alongside her knowledge in injury prevention and rehabilitation, Jill has evolved her training from the West Coast’s first barre class back in 2000 to a franchise with 46 studios (and counting)! The full body workout focuses on kinesiology and alignment principles while combining ballet barre work with yoga, core training and orthopedic exercises.

Each micro-bend and extension slims, sculpts and aligns every muscle group. These moves, while constantly pulling in your abdominal wall for stability and elongating the spine, are designed to deliver the toned results we are all aiming for.

The flow and innovative uses of bands, balls, light weights and, of course, the ballet barre took slight movements to a whole new burning level. I am famous for always eyeing the clock or considering my mental to-do list during workouts but did not have the opportunity to think about anything but my body in this class. I was too busy focusing on dropping my hips and engaging my abs! Plus, regular choreography changes and updated playlists keep the challenging hour fresh every time.

Read on to try two of Jill’s favorite moves. Read more

3 Exercises to Train Like You’re in London

Written on July 20, 2012 at 12:21 pm , by

Adding resistance to your moves increases your endurance and builds overall strength. (Photo courtesy of Jay Sullivan)

You don’t have to be in the Athlete’s Village to exercise like the Olympians this summer; you can get the same results right in your own gym! Last week we got the chance to chat with trainer Josh Holland, who will be traveling to London as the only American trainer on behalf of TechnoGym, which will be supplying all the Olympic workout facilities with gym equipment.

Though Holland won’t be training individual athletes (as they have their own personal trainers), he’ll be on site showing them how to use the TechnoGym equipment to get the most out of it for their sport. Below, Holland demonstrates three exercises you can do on the Kinesis Personal system. Try these on your own with your gym’s cable cross machine to improve your form in running, swimming and basketball.

More from FITNESS Magazine: Make the Most of the Weight Machines at Your Gym

Fit Links: Slash Your Grocery Bill and Beat Cake Cravings

Written on April 27, 2012 at 5:13 pm , by

Yes, you can do the kitchen prep in your PJs! (Photo by Reggie Casagrande)

This week’s fit links from around the web: