Strength Training for Runners: Turns out They’re onto Something!

Okay, so I think it’s probably safe to say that most people reading this are runners.  That’s how I got into this blogging thing; that’s most of the blogs I follow; and I’m pretty sure most of my followers are in a pretty similar boat.  So how many times have we heard, how many articles have we read, how much have we been preached to about how strength training for runners is SO IMPORTANT?  Well… as it turns out?  They’re right!

Here’s the deal.  I started running at 29.  It burned calories.  I lost fat.  It was great!  That was all I did.  I knew that my monogamous relationship with running was on borrowed time.  I knew eventually I would have to cheat on running with some sort of strength training, but I was in denial that the time had actually come.  But man, when you see pictures of yourself and cringe, it’s hard to hang onto that denial.

If you’ll remember, I was out with an injury for SEVERAL months last spring.  I was already getting kind of soft just BECAUSE of my lack of strength training and the natural shit that happens to a girl in her mid-30s.  Then when you suffer a chronic injury that sidelines you for months, that only compounds the problem.  Still I wasn’t terribly concerned because I thought, “Meh, it’ll come back off when I can start running again.”  Only then I started running again, and that shit wasn’t going anywhere.  By the late summer of 2015 I weighed more than I have weighed since I was an obese teenager.  Something had to give.  I had to make changes.  A friend of mine whom I’d met through dog rescue was also a Beachbody coach, and because I loathe a gym atmosphere, I opted to go through her for an at-home strength-based workout program.  I opted for the 21 Day Fix Extreme challenge pack with guarded expectations, but I took my “before” photos, bought a couple of sets of dumbbells, and waited for my DVDs and Shakeology to arrive.  As embarrassing as they are, in the interest of complete transparency and keeping it real, here they are.

My God.  I knew I’d put on a few, but I didn’t realize I looked like THAT from behind.  Why hadn’t someone told me?!  It was seeing these photos that made me want to go all in, and I did just that.  I followed the vegan version of the meal plan, and for 30 minutes a day for 21 days I did resistance training, and for the first time ever I FREAKING LOVED IT.  In three weeks I lost 4.4 pounds, an inch and a half off my waist, and an inch and a quarter off my hips.

Also in that three weeks, I fell in love with everything I learned about the company.  I knew that I was in this for the long haul, and I signed on as a coach.  I knew that I would be continuing to use the products (I LOOOOOOOVED the Shakeology), and with coaches receiving an automatic 25% discount, it was a no-brainer.  And aside from that, I wanted to be able to share what was shared with me.  Since I made the decision to be a coach, I knew I wanted to be the best one that I could be and wanted as much first-hand knowledge of the products as I could get, so as much as I loved the 21DFX, I decided to start making my way through different programs so that I knew what they were all about and could help people choose the program that was right for them based on their goals.

My next one was PiYo.  Guys, this is a recovering injured runner’s DREAM.  This program requires NO weights or equipment, and there is NO jumping and NO high impact moves.  It let me build my fitness level and gradually increase my running mileage at the same time without putting too much stress on my hip too soon.  I was hesitant about even trying this one given my hatred of Yoga, but this is a blend of Yoga and Pilates and it keeps you moving and DEFINITELY gives you a good workout.  I saw amazing changes and felt so much stronger in my core, shoulders, and butt thanks to this program.  I came out of it much stronger, leaner, and at a weight I had been chasing for a loooong time.  I was finally under 130 for the first time since my early 20s!

After PiYo, I was well into the hectic Christmas season and didn’t fully commit to a program again until after the first of the year when I started The Master’s Hammer & Chisel.  I was so excited to start this one.  It was a brand new release and I was already seeing the amazing results that people were getting with this program.  I’ve never been one to fully trust the “before and after” photos you see on TV or on social media, but when I’m seeing people I KNOW using the program transform before my very eyes, that doubt factor is removed.  Hammer & Chisel definitely lived up to its hype and then some.  I had some pretty awesome gains in those 56 days.

H&C after

I mean seriously, lets look at those quads and that back for a second, shall we?!  haha!  And feel free at this point to scroll back up to the top and see those very first before photos again for a quick comparison.  Pretty big change, huh?

I’m not ashamed to admit that I am SO EFFING PROUD of myself for how far I’ve come these last six months.  And I’m not stopping here.  I’m now in my 3rd week of P90X (yep, decided to go retro and do an older program that’s been around a while!) and I’m continuing to see changes and feel stronger by the day.

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A couple of action shots from P90X Kenpo

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I’d like to think that being so much stronger overall will benefit my race times too, but with warmer temps coming, I guess it’ll still be a few months before I can test that theory out.  haha  It’ll be interesting!  I do have another half coming up in two weeks, but I’ve been focusing on running slow, in a fat-burning zone for so long that I kind of doubt I have any long distance speed anywhere in me.  I did start doing 400s again a couple of weeks ago because there’s a 10K coming up in May that I’d kind of like to do and not completely suck at.  The 400s went surprisingly well with every one of them being below an 8 min/mile pace.  When I was doing speed work before, it was rare to ever have ONE lap under 2 min, but this week they ALL were, the fastest at a 7:28 pace!

So we will just see how the 10K goes!  I’d love to PR the distance, but I am not going to be upset if I don’t.  My main reason for ever starting to run was for fun, for health, to have something for ME, and, yeah I admit it, for vanity, and I’m getting all of those through my combo of slow running and strength training now, so I’ll be a happy girl whatever the clock says at the finish line.

***if you have any questions about these or any other Beachbody programs or Shakeology, please feel free to reach out to me!  I’d be honored to help any way that I can.

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Slow Girls Need Cool Running Clothes, Too!

So we all know the phrase, “If you build it, they will come,” right? Well, I’m trying to see if that will work with clothes, too.

“If you buy heat gear clothes, summer will come.” So I did. While doing a little shopping today, I bought some new Under Armour heat gear. BRING ON THE SUMMERTIME!!!!

Since I just started running this past summer, this is my first winter running. I’ve been in serious need of a good pair of running gloves, but my inner tightwad just wouldn’t let me thrown down $30 on a pair of gloves. I’ve either been doing without (Hello, frostbite!) or making do with regular ol’ cute, fuzzy gloves I already had. You know, the ones that act as a sponge, sucking every ounce of fluid from your body through the palms of your hands.

So today when I was driving by Dick’s, I thought to myself, “Self, seeing as how Kohls already has their bathing suits out and their coats on clearance, I wonder if Dick’s is doing the same thing!” So I went in trying to score a cheap pair of running gloves. And I so did! Gotta love off-season shopping.

Know what is even better than cheap? FREE!!!! Beth over at Shut Up and Run is doing an awesome running gear giveaway. And I’m gaining an entry into the contest by putting this in my blog.

Completely changing the subject, I did the P90X Stretch DVD a couple nights ago. Oh. My. GOD. It felt AMAZING. Like many other runners, this is an area that I have had a tendency to neglect. I’m trying to do better about it, and it seems to be paying off because I haven’t had any of the pain in my legs or feet that I had last fall. I’ve now done three of the twelve DVDs, and I totally reiterate my “Money Well Spent” rating.

P90X review

I apologize in advance for any typos in this post. After all, it’s not easy to type with your toes. I’ve been reduced to this because today my arms are dangling at my sides like two useless, sore spaghetti noodles. I finally took my P90X DVDs out of the plastic last night and hung in there as long as I could through the chest and back workout. (Pushups, anyone?) I’ll be the first to admit that I have SQUAT for upper-body strength, so I was happy that I even made it halfway through before making many modifications for sissies. I’ve gotta say, all in all, I was impressed with the quality of workout that you are able to get in your home with very little equipment. It will make for a nice addition to my routine for something to do on my cross- and strength-training days. If I’m forming an opinion off the first DVD, I’ll give it a “Money Well Spent” rating. And I’m cheap, so the producers should be very proud of themselves. I usually reserve that rating for necessities such as soap and Oreos.

Let the Games (and the Cursing and the Crying and the Pain) Begin!

It’s that time again! I’m 12 weeks out from my second half marathon, so it’s time to get serious and start really training again. I’m actually kind of excited about it, though. I’m excited to see just how much time I can knock off. I’ve continued to run (albeit sporadically) through the holidays just enough to keep me fitting in my jeans and keep me from having to start from scratch at the beginning of this training schedule. So I feel pretty good going into it!

I ran my first race yesterday since the half in November, and I was quite pleased with the result. It was a 5-miler, and I came within 34 seconds of my old 5-mile PR that I set back in October. Yes, it was 34 seconds SLOWER, but my old PR was set on a flat route, and this course I ran yesterday was SUPER HILLY. Not one freakin’ flat spot anywhere. You were either climbing up a hill or coasting down one the entire five miles.

IF I can manage to maintain yesterday’s pace for 13.1, I will finish the HM in April 18 minutes faster. That would make me a very happy girl. 🙂 I’m determined to do everything I can in the next three months to make myself a stronger runner. This time around, I plan to really push myself during my short runs rather than just cover the distance, vary my routes to incorporate more hills, and actually do some cross-training. On the recommendation of a couple of friends, I just ordered the P90X DVDs. I’m usually VERY skeptical of at-home fitness informercial junk, but I hear these are pretty awesome. Stay tuned for my personal review!