Strength training is a really good complement to any training regime to prevent injury and to maintain muscle strength especially for masters athletes. The ideal strength training is maximal strength training, but this requires some equipment. If you have a good set of free weights the following exercises are a great complement to running:
The plank is a deceptively simple-looking exercise that can do wonders for your core and upper-body strength. It’s also an exercise with a lot of variations based on your goals and your current physical strength.
If you’re just getting started, you can try a plank with your knees bent and on the floor rather than with your legs straight. Some people find it easier to bend at the elbows and rest their forearms flat on the floor rather than do a plank with their arms straight and hands on the floor.
To spice things up or work different areas of your core, you can try a side plank. Lie on your side with your feet stacked on top of each other. Push yourself off of the floor, using one arm to support your body. Keep your body in a straight line and your front facing out. You want your hips to be elevated, not sinking to the floor. Hold the pose for as long as you can, then switch to the opposite side.
If planks are the gold-standard exercise for developing core strength, then squats and lunges are the gold standards for developing lower-body strength. Like planks, squats and lunges are more challenging than they look. Just try to do 10 squats in a row. You’ll likely be huffing and puffing by the end, even if you’re in good shape to start.
To do a squat, stand up straight with your feet spaced about shoulder-width apart. Look straight ahead. Start to lower your body as if you’re about to sit in a chair. Keep lowering yourself until your thighs are parallel or nearly parallel with the floor. Your upper body should lean slightly forward as your knees bend. Slowly straighten back into a standing pose. Repeat for one minute or 10 reps.
To do a lunge, stand with your feet a few inches apart, staring straight ahead. Step forward with one leg, slowly lowering your hips toward the ground as you bend both knees. Keep the knee on the forward leg in line with the ankle rather than jutting it out. Your arms can be down at your sides or you can raise them over your head as you step forward. Hold the lunge for a beat, then step back to standing. Repeat for a minute, alternating legs.
You can squeeze a few squats and lunges into your day by doing them while you watch TV or while cooking your meals. If you’re working from home, try getting up between meetings or projects to knock out a few lunges or squats.
Whether you are using weights or not it’s always very important to have good form with these exercises. If you are not sure, you can look things up on YouTube, but use a reputable video (e.g. like CrossFit) or qualified Physiotherapist’s Personal Trainer’s site; use a mirror to check that you are doing things correctly and never compromise form for weight. Always ensure your back is supported when lifting heavy (e.g. use a weight lifting belt).
Michael McGovern, Crusader Committee Member, Chairman of Irish Milers Club
Crusaders Dublin Running Club