How to Find Time for Running as a Single Mother – Guest Post by Theresa Brawner

This is a guest post from our friend Theresa Brawner of www.diet.st fame:

When you’re a single parent, you’re constantly being both a mother and a father, and that is one of the greatest challenges anyone can face. This is why finding any time for yourself is very close to mission impossible when you’ve got your kids, your house and your job to worry about, not to mention all the responsibilities that come along the way. For single moms it’s very difficult to find time to breathe normally without worrying about this or that, which is why so many of them neglect their need for physical activity that doesn’t include scrambling around at the supermarket. Today we’ll look into what you can do to fit running into your busy schedule and hopefully we’ll give you some boost to get to it.

Don’t Do Everything Alone

Of course you’re a strong independent woman, but when you just don’t have enough time to manage everything, asking for help is completely ok. We all strive to be crazy productive super parents, but it doesn’t always work out and you still need to find time for yourself, so that you can be a better parent for your little ones. Chances are that you know other parents that live in the neighborhood, so why not establish a plan where you take care after each other’s children from time to time, so that you all have some time to just be? For you, this means spending a couple of hours alone with your thoughts, going for a long run and enjoying it without worrying, and your kids get to play with their friends, it’s a win-win situation. There is nothing wrong with asking for assistance when you need some, and you’ll probably be surprised at how willing other parents are to help you out, as you will be there for them when they need it too.

Wake up Earlier

This is an option that isn’t really a favorite among moms that are usually under slept and under constant pressure to get things done from the moment they open their eyes, but it works. Starting your day an hour earlier gives you some leeway to do things just for you and that can be anything, running included. You don’t have worry about your kids tearing down the house while you’re doing your laps, as they’re still sleeping and you’ll still get back in time to get a quick shower and prepare a healthy breakfast for both you and your little ones. You will actually be pleasantly surprised at how much you can accomplish just by waking a bit earlier, as there are no distractions on the way, and you can organize your time as you please.

Find a Running Partner

This is a great tip because you get someone to motivate you to find time for running even when you don’t feel like it. If at all possible, you can join a running group or create one if you know that more parents from the neighborhood would be interested to join. Having someone run with you will cut the excuses for not doing it at the root, plus you will have a great time bonding with new friends, with whom you share many things in common. Besides, being close to your neighbors is always a good idea, you will always have someone to turn to if push comes to a shove and you need help with babysitting or any other life situation.

Treadmill as Plan B

There will be days when you just can’t find the time to get out of house and go for a run and in this case, it’s wise to have a treadmill at hand. It doesn’t have to anything fancy, just a solid piece of equipment that will allow you to stay in shape even when you can’t do your running outside. Treadmill is a practical solution for when you have to stay in the house and keep an eye on everything that’s going on and it gives you space to do something for yourself even when the odds are against you. – Theresa Brawner

 

Theresa Brawner is a 28-year-old fitness instructor from Boston, MA, who writes articles for www.diet.st in her free time. When she isn’t helping new moms get back in shape, you can find her in the kitchen, working on new recipes.

 

Starting from Zero: How to Get Motivated to Workout (Guest Post By Charlie Alf)

The following is a guest post written by Charlie Alf from backpackhack.com

How long ago was it when you stood in front of the mirror in your bathroom or bedroom and said, “Today is the day I am going to start getting fit!” Seems like forever, I bet. Every person who has started their journey towards a healthier, fitter body has been in your shoes. Not knowing anything about nutrition, working out, or even calories, you hop on the crash diet train and derail over and over.

Fortunately, by the end of this article, you are going to know exactly how to first find the right motivation and how to get in shape. For real this time.

Get Your Act Together

You know what that means. If you are going to make the chance, you need to be in this completely, heart and soul. No doubts. No regrets. In order to do that, more thought has to go into your motivation than just wanting to look good. You need a thorough reason, a goal, that is going to drive you further and further until you not only crush that goal, you succeed repeatedly from here on out.

It might sound inconceivable right now, but once you consider these reasons to get fit, nothing will feel more dire:

  • Exercise decreases hypertension which is positively correlated to high-fat, high-sugar diets and sedentary lifestyles.
  • You lower your risk of diabetes and obesity, both of which shave valuable years off your life. Plus, you increase lean body mass while reducing body fat. When these two factors are more balanced, you are much healthier, and your system is more balanced.
  • Exercise keeps the bones strong. Sedentary lifestyles can induce brittle bones, so keep moving to save your body from literally breaking down.
  • Feeling tired? Exercise more. Laying around doing nothing and eating nutritionally devoid foods is actually more draining than bouts of exercise.
  • In fact, you will not only have more energy from working out, you will be in a better mood. And I am not only talking happiness over depression but being in the mood more often. Yes, exercise means better sex.
  • Moderate walking has been proven to boost the brain’s memory center, lowers the stress-induced hormone, cortisol, and makes you happier.

The list could go on and on, but for brevity, it is going to be cut off here. Yet, by these tidbits alone, you can see that your health is linked to how active you are. Humans are born movers.

But if being able to extend your life and the quality of it is not enough to get you off the couch, perhaps there is another way to get you motivated.

Figure Out Your “Why”

Though you may be tempted to jump in headfirst, think about this first. How badly do you want this?

Formulate a real life goal. For example:

  • “I want to be able to play with the kids or grandkids one day,”
  • “I want to be independent when I’m older,”
  • “I want to be able to climb Mt. Everest,”
  • “I want to complete a charity marathon and honor someone dear to me,”
  • “I want to recover or holistically treat a mental or physical disorder or disease.”

Write it down. Use it as a mantra. Hang it up on the refrigerator, bedroom wall, and anywhere else you will be reminded of your goal.

Choose Activities That Are Fun

Something that gets you involved both physically and mentally is going to feel a lot more rewarding than schlepping through an internet search generated workout.

Choose what makes you smile. Hiking, dancing, biking, swimming, tai chi, and kickboxing are all valid forms of exercise. As long as you are having fun, you will stick with it. Also, do not fret about “going hard or going home.” If you cannot do much yet, simply walking around for 30 minutes a day is the perfect way to getting started.

Remember:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), alongside internationally known fitness associations like NASM, ACSM, and ACE, have all declared that adults should get at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate-intensity exercise per week. This does not have to be done all in one shot, so never say you do not have time. 10 minute bursts of activity throughout the day actually burn more calories than an extended, steady state workout while boosting productivity and creativity.

Once you have started, keep the momentum going by investing time in physical activities that you enjoy. Motivate yourself by knowing the importance of your health and how working out will reshape you and your life for the better. Stay strong. You got this.

Charlie Alf is a avid hiker and loves nature and is always on the lookout for the next adventure, when his not hiking he likes to woodwork and fix things.If you liked this article, be sure to check out his other great articles on backpackhack.com

 

4 Simple Tips To Increase Running Cadence (Guest Post by Cara Haley!)

The following is a guest post by our friend Cara Haley from Fitaholic Gear

Running, as all runners know,  is quite a repetitive sport, and also one associated with a wide variety of possible injuries. The running cadence is the number of strikes made by your feet for a set period of time.

By increasing your running cadence, you increase your speed and improve your performance. Also, by improving your running cadence you decrease the risks of shin splints and other running related injuries, and improve your ability for long term, healthy running.

To determine your running cadence, count the number of times one of your feet steps on the ground for one minute when running. Multiply it by two and you will get your cadence. You should do that to determine both your training cadence and your racing cadence. Of course, your cadence is affected by the terrain you are running on, the conditions, as well the length of your running stride.

The majority of the runners consider 180 steps per minute to be the cadence to strive for.

There are ways to increase the running cadence. Here are 4 simple tips to help you do that:

  1. You need to determine your running cadence in order to attempt to increase it.
    So, measure it, and re-measure it periodically to calculate your cadence. Consider wearing fitness gear, such as a watch with enabled GPS which has a metronome and accelerometer to keep track of your cadence and your progress.

    When you first start to increase your cadence, your running will feel different than usual. Do not overdo it, and try to increase the strikes of your feet slowly. This will make the progress feel more natural and will not hinder your performance or increase the risk of injuries.
    Try increasing your cadence by 5% at a time. Once you are used to the increased cadence you can opt for another increase of 5%. Take it slowly but surely.

  2. Try listening to music with a faster rhythm while you are running.
    You will find that your feet will tend to follow the rhythm, and this can help increase the cadence naturally as well. All you need is a small mp3 player such as one of these here. There are various websites which provide playlists and music which is suitable for increasing the number of steps you make per minute.
  3. You can also use a metronome to provide you with the pace rate you are striving for.
    Just follow the beats or clicks to increase your steps per minute.
  4. Visualize your running cadence in a mental rehearsal of your run.
    By visualizing the result you want to reach you train your brain and it will in turn train the body to automatically adjust to the new cadence. You can also try running in place in front of a mirror with your feet at a shoulder-width.

    Position your arms as if you are running, and start running in place. Bring the knees half way up and run as fast as you can on one spot. The knees need to be pointing straight ahead, and your heels shouldn’t touch the ground as you are doing that. Run for 20 seconds and rest for a minute after that.

    Keep track of the number of foot strikes you make for each run. Repeat the running twice. Do this exercise two times a week, and keep track of your progress. This exercise helps train the feet to leave the ground as soon as possible when running, which leads to an increase of cadence.

Remember the 5% rule, and stay safe at all times when working on increasing your cadence. This is the best way to do it, and will keep you safe from injuries from overtraining.

Written by C.Haley: Cara is addicted to running, fitness, preparing healthy food, and spending time with her family. She blogs for Fitaholic Gear, Comfort Hacks and a number of other sites, as she wants share her passion for fitness with those who are looking to make lasting lifestyle changes.

Best Strategies For Building Foot Muscles and Strength (Guest Post By Jane Grates!)

Learning to run and have a good stride is a practiced discipline especially when you are changing running styles. For runners who have worn the typical jogging shoe all their lives, building foot strength and endurance is important. There are few practical strategies for strengthening your feet while alleviating any potential for pain or injury in the future.

The most crucial thing to remember when beginning to train for minimal or barefoot running is not to dive into training too fast. Think of building your foot muscles and strength as a long-term project. You want to do a little at a time and slowly build up your foot’s endurance by pushing the limits on daily basis.

The first step before you dive into training is to test the strength in your feet. One way to do this is to find rollers of different sizes and densities. Start with the larger and softer density roller and apply partial body weight by being seated. Measure the amount of pressure you can handle before applying more. Increase the amount of density and use a smaller roller until you feel that you can handle a fair amount of pressure.

The next thing to consider is your stride. Most barefoot or minimalistic runners‘ strike with either their mid-foot or the forefoot. When you run barefoot, you automatically strengthen the muscles in the arch of your foot, which is a great way to prevent a collapse later on.

Shamma5One step towards preparing your feet for barefoot running is to invest in a good pair of minimal shoes. Test out your foot strength and endurance by learning to forefoot strike with minimalistic shoes on a hard but smooth surface such as a track or tennis court. You will know immediately from the response of your body if you are ready to move on after a few days. Make sure to pay attention to your form and try to create good form from the beginning. It’s also good to build up the calluses on your feet prior to going completely barefoot. There are many minimal shoes on the market that allow you to practice your forefoot strike.

When looking for a shoe, stay away from a built up heel. A larger heel will cause you to over-point your toes, which causes unnecessary pain and possible damage to the foot.

Find a shoe with a flexible sole and no arch support. When the sole is too stiff, it tends to prevent the flattening of the arch, which in turn keeps the muscles in the foot from functioning naturally. An easy rule of thumb is that if you can’t easily bend the sole of the shoe, it’s too stiff. In the first few days of training you may feel your muscles in your feet tire quickly, but this will eventually get better over time.

Overall the benefits from barefoot running outweigh any negatives. For example, you don’t have to worry about buying the latest jogging shoes. Plus, runners find that it takes less energy to forefoot strike, because they utilise the natural spring of the foot when stepping down. Running barefoot also allows you to carry less mass, which is great when you need to accelerate or get more push from each stride. If that’s not enough, how about the pure and simple fact that barefoot running feels great! Your feet have ton of nerves that are activated upon each step, so it’s an amazing rush. Lastly, with barefoot running there is very little impact delivered to the foot upon landing, so it’s really comfortable provided you take the time to strengthen and prepare your feet.

Author’s Bio:

janegrates1Jane Grates

Jane is an entrepreneur based in Copenhagen, Denmark. She owns several websites including Monica’s Health Magazine. When not busy with her websites, she travels to popular running destinations.

Think You’re Too Slow? Here’s Why You’re Wrong.

StopwatchIt can be disheartening when you’re training as hard as you possibly can, but you’re still not seeing results. Maybe you’re in peak physical shape and you just can’t shave off one more second. Maybe you’re on the other end of things and questioning if you’re even meant to be a runner. Either way, you’re probably a lot faster than you think you are. Here’s why.

When you look at average times for a mile or whatever distance you’re looking to hit, typically these trackers don’t take into account how much inclines change or how many terrible hills you’re pushing yourself to run up. They don’t take into account your weight, level of fitness, or natural ability. In general, they’re just misleading. It might be corny, but the fact is that you can only measure yourself against yourself. That’s the only running time that really matters. And if you can’t get any faster, that’s probably your body saying, “Hey, this is how fast you’re supposed to be running. Quit pushing yourself so hard – you’re going to get injured if you do.”

Running calculators are just as inaccurate as apparent “average times.” Consider the Riegel calculator, a running calculator which attempts to figure out how fast you’ll run based on one race time when you add or subtract miles. It sounds straightforward enough. But imagine comparing your pace in a short sprint to a marathon. A calculator can’t possibly predict how your body will move from a sprint to a long distance run. It’s been proven that some people are natural sprinters and others are more inclined for long distance running. If this is you, you could either be running much faster or slower than that calculator predicts you will. This is yet another reason you’re faster than you think you are: if you’re not a natural long distance runner, you’re going to struggle a bit harder than the natural. It’s in your genes, man.

Another issue with running calculators is that almost all of them are based on the times of elite athletes. The way an elite runner runs is much different than the way the average runner runs when it comes to pacing, gait, and all sorts of other factors that determine how fast you’ll finish a race.

All of the above have been technical ways that measuring your speed just doesn’t work when it comes to determining how fast you are. Because of this, you’re probably faster than you think you are. There is of course more to it, though.

One way that you can run faster than you think is by mixing things up. Long distance runners focus so much on long distance running that they don’t realize how important speed training is. Tempo style workouts just aren’t enough. What you need to become faster is faster running exercises. Think sprints and interval training. If you’re not trying out different strategies to speed up, you’re letting yourself down. You can run faster than you think – you just have to train smart.
Perfect your form and gait. If you’re working hard but have bad form, it doesn’t matter how hard you work. You need the foundation of a strong technique to become the fastest you can.

Beyond training adjustments, another way of looking at things is taking a key word from the phrase “you’re faster than you think.” That key word is “think.” There are numerous studies that back up the power of positive thinking, no matter how corny you may think it is. Visualise yourself running faster, running as if you could run forever. Listen to motivational speeches, encouraging high-tempo music, and even happy pop songs while you’re running. They’ll propel you forward, as will mantras that encourage you like, “I’ve got this,” “I’m a fast runner,” and “Just keep going.” You’re faster than you think you are because right now you’re too hung up on thinking you’re slow. And what you think becomes your reality.

Start believing in yourself now.

Once again, the focus should be on yourself. Running isn’t about competing. It’s about the enjoyment you get from pushing yourself hard, reaching goals, and living a healthy life. If you’re the type to look around you, challenge others to races, or talk yourself down, you’ve got to stop. All runners enjoy running: that’s what you have in common. What you don’t have in common is body type, various strengths and weaknesses, body weight and body fat percentage, muscle mass, and all sorts of other factors. Because of this, you can only race yourself. And you’re the only person you should be concerned with beating in a race, as you’re the only true measuring stick you have to go by. When you stop beating yourself in races, congratulate yourself: you’ve reached peak physical shape. That’s something worth celebrating.

This has been a guest post by Dan Chabert

Writing from Copenhagen, Denmark, Dan is an entrepreneur, hchabertusband and ultramarathon distance runner. He spends most of his time on runnerclick.com, and nicershoes.com and he has been featured on runner blogs all over the world.

How to Run Barefoot in Life, The Universe, and Everything

This is a guest post by Loren Wade of Unlifer. His blog launches today – so go check it out!

UnliferRunning barefoot. There’s really nothing quite like it. It’s primal. It’s down to earth, literally, and it’s real.

When I first read about the barefoot running trend a year ago, I thought it was kind of silly. I ended up reading more and more about it because I’m a fitness geek.  I became drawn to the idea. Fast forward a few months, I found myself dumping my old shoes and embracing the minimalist barefoot community. Today, I own two pairs of Vibram Five Fingers (KSOs and Komodosports), a pair of New Balance Minimus, and some short Chuck Taylors (thinner sole) that I ripped the soles out of and put in some super feet. I won’t get into the why or how I did this, ’cause that’s Barefoot Dawsy’s job.

Needless to say, I’m addicted. It’s kind of ironic that embracing minimalism found me owning 4 different pairs of shoes.

You’re reading this for a reason though.

You know there’s still nothing quite like being barefoot.

I may own a bunch of shoes, but they mean nothing in the long run (pun intended). I still prefer feeling the earth beneath my feet. I still prefer walking and running the way our bodies were intended.

But what does it mean to live barefoot?

It means to simplify and live simply.

Truth is, I don’t need 4 different pairs of shoes. I could have found one pair that did almost everything I wanted. If you want to learn to run, go out and do it. You don’t need running shorts, running shirts, and runners everything to simply run. Just. Run. Learn from the right people (you’re here, aren’t you?) and just go out and do it. Embrace the adventure.

Steve Kamb over at Nerd Fitness constantly quotes Theodore Roosevelt, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” This is what it means to live simply!

Living simply means having a balance!

Find a balance in everything. This doesn’t mean do everything in moderation, but find a balance on your investment to life. If you spend $150 for the best shoes or product, could you have found an equally or barely less quality product and save $50? Buy only what you need. Maybe for you, it’s a balance between life and work. Work as hard as you can but only work to the point where you receive an equal or greater return on investment. Sometimes this even means working a lot for a long period of time so you do not have to work later.

Simple is not friends with perfect.

In other words: don’t be a perfectionist.

Save for the best but don’t micromanage every detail. Be okay with making mistakes. This is how we learn. It’s okay to pay attention to the details after big picture is already under control. Until then, do only the essential tasks every day for home and work. If you do all of the most important things right away, you’ll have nothing to worry about and you’ll find yourself with a surplus of time to spend on things you want to do.

Like our bare foot on the ground, we also need to be…

Down to Earth!

Be real to people. Don’t fake who you are so people like you. Be honest. Be real. Be your personality. Love people even if they don’t deserve it and share your passions with other people. If they don’t like you, who cares? Living simple is living down to earth because it’s the easiest way to live. Who wants to pretend to be someone else their whole life? That’s confusing. Being down to earth also means being realistic. Expect the best, but prepare for the worst.

In essence, simplicity is not easy. It’s actually tough and ironically not a simple process.

It’s a battle, but victory is worth it.

To run barefoot and live barefoot is to seek simplicity and live simply.

Loren Wade is the author of Unlifer, a blog dedicated to inspiring and empowering people with practical ways to lifehack a broken world. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Quick Start Plan to Building Leg Strength and Power

This is a guest post from Jedd Johnson. Jedd is a strength enthusiast and Grip Sport competitor, and loves writing about all forms of strength training. Check out his site, DieselCrew.com, for articles and videos on all forms of strength training.

Imagine this scenario for just a moment…

You are facing the final stretch of your 5K run. Just a few hundred more meters to go and you will cross the finish line, but for some reason your legs feel like jelly.

For the entire race, you have felt solid, but with the finish line so close, it’s never felt so far away.

With each stride, you can feel your quads getting more rubbery, and your glutes are about to give out on you.

Why is this happening now????

Unfortunately, this is a situation that many runners face. At the end of a race, they find they don’t have it in them for that final kick, and while they may finish, at the end their pace has a huge drop-off.

One of the reasons for this happening is a lack of strength in the legs, especially the glutes and quads. The strength of the lower body is the foundation for many aspects of a race, including overall speed, power to get by another runner, and endurance at the end of the race.

How can we improve speed, power and endurance all at the same time? One way is by increasing your base Strength. Let’s look at each running factor in a bit more detail.

Running Speed

Speed is a combination of many factors, two of which are stride length and stride frequency. Stride length is the actual distance you are able to cover with one cycle of strides, and stride frequency is the number of strides you take over a given distance. Both of these factors are related to and driven by sheer Strength.

Think of it this way: if you lack leg strength, then you will not be able to propel your body as far forward with each stride and when you lose propulsion like this, you lose stride length. As a result, when you have a shorter stride length, it means to cover a certain distance, you will have to take more strides than a person that is roughly the same size but much stronger than you in the legs. More strides = a high stride frequency, which means you are doing a lot more work to cover the same ground as the other comparative athlete.

Running Power

When you want to pass by someone on a track or on a road, you need to shift it into another gear in order to blow by them. This increase in speed that takes place quickly in time is a result of Power.

In order to be powerful, you need to have Strength. If you do not have the strength required throughout the lower body, then you sacrifice your Power output and as a result, in order to pass someone you have to increase your stride frequency, thus changing your natural mechanics and burning more energy than is necessary.

Running Endurance

Your level of endurance and stamina is a direct result of your Strength and Conditioning levels. Think of your endurance abilities as a Pyramid. With more Strength, comes a wider foundation or base, with which to build your endurance, and thus, the pyramid has the capacity to be built higher.

However, if your strength levels are low, this means the base of the pyramid will be narrower and your endurance will suffer. Many of the people that burn out at the end of a race do so because of a lack of strength in the legs, not just poor conditioning.

Think about this. How many people do you know that can run a 5-k in their sleep, but do so dreadfully slowly? They might sign up to do a race with 4 or 5 other people, and their pace is way off the others.

This is partly due to their lack of strength, the lack of propulsion, having to constantly mess with their stride frequency by kicking it up a notch to maintain a pace, and then finally endurance which suffers because of this lack of sheer leg strength.

With the preceding examples, you can now see how Strength in the lower body (or lack thereof) can have a tremendous effect on your performance in a run or race. Now, we have to decide what to do about it.


Lower Body Strength Training for Runners

Chances are, since you are a serious runner, you understand running mechanics and how important it is to keep them in check. This article will not cover that aspect of the running game. Instead, this article will cover some of the exercises you can start doing right now in order build the lower body strength you need to increase your running performance.

1. Squats

One of the best movements you can start doing right now is Squats, especially Back Squats and Front Squats.

Back Squats

Front Squat

Back Squats are particularly beneficial for developing the back side of the body, the glutes, lower back, and hamstrings with a little bit of quad thrown in there as well. For an even bigger emphasis on the quads, you can perform any of the varieties of Front Squats.

Do not be tempted to replace Squats with Leg Press. The Leg Press is a bodybuilding tool, more so than a Strength Tool. The reason I say this is it is used to “isolate” portions of the lower body in order to get them to grow. The Squat variations, however, keep you up on your feet in a more similar position to running. Have you ever seen anyone run while sitting down?

Also, because you are seated inside a machine when using the Leg Press, you do not get the stimulation to the synergistic muscles, the ones that work along with the main muscle groups to keep everything firing efficiently and maintain balance.

Squats, of course, are a very technical exercise, so it is wise to consult with a trained professional on the proper execution of the exercise, or you can check out this post on my website, How to Squat Properly.

There are many squat programs out there today, ranging from very low volume (3 to 5 sets of 1 rep) to very high volume (20-rep sets). When I squat, I personally like sets of 3 to 5.

For runners new to squatting, the most important thing is to develop great technique and then progressively increase weight, reps or both, while still maintaining your great technique. If at any time your form begins to fail, cut the set short and re-rack the bar.

Covering the many Squat variations that exist would turn this article into a book. However, I know some people may not have a barbell and weights in their home and may not have a gym membership. While I feel squatting is the best all around developer of leg strength, I will cover some other exercises that you can use to supplement your Squats or in the case that you do not get into Squatting at all.

For an idea of Squat variations you can perform, simply search YouTube.com for how to perform Back Squats, Front Squats, Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats, Zercher Squats, Overhead Squats, etc.

2. Step Ups

Step Ups are another great exercise for building strength in the lower body. They are not as technique-intensive as Squat variations are, but they are still a better alternative to the Leg Press because, again, you are up on your feet driving force through the ground (or a platform) and the entire lower chain of the body must work together.

Step Ups

Do not be tempted to use your hands to assist you when performing Step-Ups. This takes away the effectiveness of the lift. Also, do not use the lower foot for assistance out of the bottom of the hole. Make every effort to generate the strength through the concentric phase of the exercise with the quads, the big muscles on the front of the leg.

Do not make the mistake of short-cutting your range of motion on the step-up. Make sure each and every repetition ends with a strong upright position created by the glute. Short-cutting here will reduce glute activity, and limit your development. Remember, the glutes are where you get your power from. Finish strong with the glutes to strengthen them and to lengthen the hip flexors.

Do not be afraid to load your Step-ups. Barbells and dumbbells can be used, as well as chains draped over the shoulders. As far as sets and reps, two or three sets of 10 to 20 reps should work great.

3. Lunges

Lunges are another great exercise for runners because they work the entire leg, you are standing on your feet instead of being in a machine, and you can easily load them and change directions with them.

There are two main ways to perform worth-while lunges in my opinion. The first way is to lunge over a distance. When doing so, it is important to maintain proper form. Think of driving with the glutes on each repetition and think of over-emphasizing the stride. Remember, lunges are not a running mechanics drill, they are a Strength Drill, so treat them as such.

Lunges

The other acceptable way to perform lunges is loaded with either a barbell or dumbbell. When performing Lunges, don’t be tempted to drag the feet. Instead, drive through the feet in a way that is powerful, lifting the feet up as you move.

4. Sled Dragging

There are many ways to perform sled dragging. There are different ways to attach the sled to your body, different ways to hold the sled, etc. You can pull forwards, drag back wards, side ways, you can sprint, lunge, jump – all of these movement patterns are possible and will help you develop unparalleled power on the road and track.

Don’t think you have a good kick for passing people and finishing strong in a race? You will if you start adding Sled Dragging to the end of your routine.

Sled Dragging

Again, with Sled Dragging, this is not a running mechanics drill. This is about developing drive, striding hard, and building power. Sure your legs will be blown up at the end of the training, but that is nothing that a little stretching can’t fix.

As far as volume, 6 to 10 runs of about 30 yards or so should do the trick, but if you have less room, so be it. From time to time, you can even mix up how much weight you add to the sled, while changing the distance you pull it.

5. Weighted Glute Bridge

The Glute Bridge is often done on the floor with just bodyweight or very little resistance. While this is good for activating glutes that have laid dormant for quite some time, eventually, you need to build strength in the glutes, and this is one way you can do it.

To do so, lie your shoulders on a bench with a loaded barbell above your hips. You can start out with just the barbell if you want, or with light weights added, like 25-lb bumper plates. You may also want to pad the bar with either a squat pad (one of the few good uses for a squat pad) or a towel. Hold the bar in place with your hands but do not assist the lift with the arms.

Glute Bridge

From there, it is just a matter of positioning the bar in the right spot in the bend of the thighs and in the center of the bar and then you just lift the barbell upwards to the point where you lock the hip joint out, then return to the floor.

Remember that this exercise works the glutes so the primary action should be at the hip. The lower back angle should stay consistent with this exercise, so do not extend the lower back at all in order to get further movement.

Drive the heels into the ground and keep the feet flat or lift the toes, but do not drive through the toes. That makes the exercise less efficient.

For volume, 3 sets of 6 to 8 repetitions should work well. Remember to start out light when you first start doing this movement, control each rep, and do not flex the neck. Keep the neck angle as consistent as possible throughout each rep.


Setting up a Lower Body Strength Program

While I have given you 5 excellent ways to train the lower body for strength and to increase your running performance, that does not mean you need to do all 5 lifts every single workout. Instead, I would suggest selecting a Squat Variation and then combining it with one other lift, plus some sled dragging, for a total of 3 lifts per lower body workout.

Since you are most likely running quite a bit, I would also suggest training the lower body only once per week. During periods of higher distances and running frequency, you can keep the overall volume of the lifts lower and when you are running less, you can increase the volume.

Here is one way to set up some lower body strength training sessions over the course of an 8-week period.

Week 1

Squat Variation
Lunge
Sled Dragging

Week 2

Squat Variation
Step-ups
Sled Dragging

Week 3

Squat Variation
Glute Bridge
Sled Dragging

Week 4

De-load: Zero to Minimal Weight Training

Week 5

Squat Variation
Glute Bridge
Sled Dragging

Week 6

Squat Variation
Lunge
Sled Dragging

Week 7

Squat Variation
Step-ups
Sled Dragging

Week 8

De-load: Zero to Minimal Weight Training

As you progress, you can even add in different leg training exercises. There are so many out there: Deadlifts, Romanian Deadlifts, Vertical Box Jumps, Plyos, Glute/Ham Raises, etc.


Safety Considerations for Lower Body Strength Training

As always, safety is the primary concern. While increasing your strength levels is a sure-fire way to improve your running performance, it is always wise to go about things the right way.

First off, do not even start weight training until you consult a doctor or physician. If you have underlying issues from your running past that you are not aware of, weight training can make things worse.

Second, I can not put enough emphasis on working your way up slowly. The 8-week progression listed above does not include weights and volume due to the amazing variety of readers Shaun has at his site. With that in mind, feel free to come to my site and drop me a line in regards to proper loading for your training.

Third, proper preparation is key. Far too many people try strength training for a short period and give up because it “hurts” or is “too hard.” Many times this is because they do not warm-up properly and do not pay attention to technique. While strength training is a way to better prepare for running, you must also properly prepare for strength training as well.

In the end, it is all about knowledge. Always be looking for ways to improve your knowledge base. When it comes to strength training, my site is one of the best, so I invite you to check out DieselCrew.com and view the Popular Posts on the right hand side. Strength is my passion and the 800+ posts at my site will show this.

I wish you the best in your training, and again, please check out my strength training website, and subscribe to my newsletter.

Jedd

Jedd Johnson is a Strength Coach and strength training enthusiast whose primary emphasis is Grip Strength. Jedd routinely competes in Grip Strength Contests all over the United States and international competitions involving world-wide participants. For more information on strength training, check out his website, DieselCrew.com, which is packed with nearly 1000 articles on various strength training and fitness related topics.