I’ve read a lot of articles that say the best exercise you can do for running is running. It’s the concept of specificity. It seems obvious, but I believe it’s more complicated than that. Running more will make you a better runner, but running to the detriment of everything else is going to lead to muscle imbalances and eventually injury. This is why cross-training is vital.
Running is a high intensity workout that works a number of muscle groups in the body. But it’s motion in one dimension. You’re constantly running forward. There’s a number of muscle groups that will atrophy if you stay in this single plane. Coach Jay Johnson has a good warmup video that explains the concept and demonstrates a lunge matrix to workout and warmup these alternative plane muscle groups. [blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/gbdlgdnhYAI?p=1 width=”780″ height=”438″]
When I started running I came from a background of basketball and very strong muscles in my hips/glutes area. After getting serious about running, I stopped playing basketball and as my mileage increased my trips to the gym became less and less frequent. That was a mistake. I ended up with some serious muscle imbalances with my hips that I’ve worked diligently to correct. With my recent injury, I took up the gym again and discovered I had lost a ton of strength in my glutes/legs. I also made a connection between this lack of strength and the staleness I’ve been feeling lately.
The first few years I was running I had the ability to crush my interval workouts. The challenge felt good. I wanted to push myself. Over time that good feeling slowly waned and I figured it was due to motivation. Now at the gym, that explosiveness I used to have has been replaced by that same stale feeling. The explosiveness isn’t there because I’m not as strong as I used to be. It’s time for a correction. I’ve now decided that the gym is going to stay a part of my running routine. I run a lot more hills now and I’m running as fast as ever, but it’s obvious that running alone isn’t building enough strength. Specificity is good, but it’s limiting my potential. Once I’m recovered from injury and back to high mileage I’m going to make sure I hit the big leg muscles at the gym at least twice a week. I think it’s going to pay off big time.