Monday, January 2, 2012

An Accidental 20+ Miler & Some Strength Training For The New Year

I woke up this morning to brisk 19 degrees temps as I walked my dogs in icy conditions and a light layer of snow gently blanketing the city. Well hello 2012, you've decided to come in with a bang haven't you?

We've actually been quite spoiled the last few months here in Chicago with rather mild temps and only traces on snowfall. While meteorologist have been dubbing this winter as the worst Chicago has yet to see, luckily enough that tricky weather they've been speaking of for most of 2011 has had yet to visit. I suppose that 2012 may be a different story, so I brace myself humbly.

I was even lucky enough to meet Charlyn up for an accidental 20 miler on Saturday in the wee morning hours where we were greeted with a beautiful sunrise and very comfortable running temps. It was actually the perfect running day. No wind. No chill. Just pure and simple beauty and peace stirring the city.

Sunrise over Belmont Harbor
But yes, I accidentally ran 20ish miles on Saturday and haven't ran over 13 miles since the Chicago marathon last fall. But the company was great, my legs felt spunky, and the morning was beautiful. I felt very blessed to have those early morning hours be as perfect as they were, and it was a great run to close out 2011.

The only problem with throwing a random 20 miler into the mix is that the legs definitely feel it the next day. As soon as we stopped running, I think that I already had lost about 50% of my flexibility. And by Sunday morning, I felt kind of like the tin man from the Wizard of Oz.

While I know that I've lost a lot of my fitness in the past few months, it is comforting to know that I have somehow managed to retain my endurance. With time, and loads of work, my strength and fitness level will come back stronger then ever and my spring marathon will be the time of my life. Counting down the days...only 139 to go.

Want to know my secret to holding onto that endurance???


Yes that's right folks, strength training has magical powers that go well beyond strengthening those muscle fibers enough to lift a parked car. 

There are so many different ways to strengthen the muscles of the body, the variables for manipulation are endless. After the marathon it was apparent to me that my body needed a different type of strength training in order to recover fully from the race. Like I previously mentioned, it was important post marathon that I kept my focus on functional strength and dynamic movements. The majority of exercises that I have incorporated into my training engage multiple muscle groups and keep the core active. The combination of all of this activity can really get the heart rate going and basically acts as a form of interval training. 

So even while my body has not allowed me to run for endless amounts of time in the last few months, it has allowed me to take it through a wide variety of movements that allow my heart rate to rise and fall keeping my cardiovascular fitness sharp. By manipulating the variables of training, I've been able to figure out a way to keep my endurance while not having to run a billion miles and still allow my body some time to recover.

The body is pretty cool huh?

This may sound like a lot of work and tricky to figure out, but I swear it really isn't. All it takes is a bit of planning and some thinking time analyzing the training concepts you are already familiar with.

How I did this for myself:

Thought about the movements I needed. 
My body needed dynamic movements that engage multiple muscle groups at a time. No more working isolated muscle groups because my body rarely acts in isolated actions.

Thought about the muscle groups I needed to engage. 
I fall into the category of runners who neglect strength and balance in their hips and butt, so my bum needed quite a bit of attention.

Thought about the load and time. 
In order to engage my muscles appropriately and retrain them to move in accordance with one another again functionally, the load would need to be extremely light or nonexistent at first and worked over a longer duration of time. Once the muscles begun to adjust and rebalance themselves, then and only then could the load be increased. 

Thought about balance.
My muscles needed some focus on maintaining balance. What good is strength within a gym if I cannot stand comfortably balanced on one foot outside of the gym during normal life movements?

Putting all of these variables together, 
this is what I came out with for my last strength session of 2011.
3 different circuits with dynamic movements, some weighted and some not, worked over a longer period of time to get my heart rate going while strengthening my muscles.
Slightly similar to the last strength session I posted.

1st Circuit

Hands on Bosu. On the down portion of the pushup crunch opposite knee to opposite elbow on each side. Repeat.

Sumo Squats
Squat down, then do a bicep curl with a "wide grip". Engage core and butt the entire time.
12.5 lb weights.

Tricep dips
Built an incline with step equipment. Focused on posture and squeezing the muscles of the bum throughout the exercise.

2nd Circuit

Lateral lunge
Lunge while again in upright position with core engaged laterally. Hold the lunge on the down and shoulder raise laterally with the symmetrical side.
10 lb weights

Plank into burpee
10 lb weights

Toe touches
Lie on mat with feet up in the air engaging the core. Hold weight above head with both hands and press to feet. Upon lowering do not allow the shoulders to come to a complete rest on the mat.
15 lb weight

3rd Circuit

Turkish get up's
Lie on mat with right arm in air and left foot on the ground with the knee bent. Place left arm out to the side. Engaging the core, use it to lift the body into upright position and slightly over to the left side of the body giving the core a slight twist and keeping shoulders relaxed and away from the ears. Lower in a controlled motion. Repeat on opposite side.
10 lb weight

Tricep Skull crushers
Lie with shoulder on stability ball. Clench the bum muscles while keeping the body straight, should engage the core. Keep shoulders relaxed and away from the ears.
2 12.5 lb weights

Single leg dead lift
Standing balanced on one leg and engaging core, lower weights towards the ground while keeping back straight. Bring back to upright position. While working the right leg, bicep curl. Repeat on other side, but switch the bicep curl for a frontal shoulder raise. Maintain balance by engaging the core throughout the exercise.
2 10 lb weights

I did 2x15 for each circuit before moving on to the next. This workout took me about 50 minutes to complete. 

Time and proper muscle engagement always trumping load.

Happy strength training in 2012!


  1. I love dynamic movement strength training. It feels like such a better workout to me that being static, on some machine in the gym! I really notice a difference in my running, when I am keeping up with strength training!

    I hope you feel less like the Tin Man today! :)

  2. Nice workout!!! I've just recently starting trying out some insanity workouts, similar concept with the intervals and strength moves. I've also found some good stuff on! Thanks for sharing your workout! Happy New Year!

  3. That sounds like a great workout. I might print that out so I can do it next time I'm at the gym. Strength training is something I really need to focus on in 2012 with all of the things I am planning to do. Great job on the 20 miler. Gotta love it when everything just falls into place!

  4. Amen to the strength training! My husband is a big weight lifter but I found them rather intimidating.....until recently. I am embarking on my first week of the new year strength training and cross training. I already feel the results! I'm looking forward to seeing the "long run" results :)
    Oh, and BTW, I love that there is someone else out there other than me that can appreciate running an "accidental 20 miler" or any long distance for that matter : ) Rock on!!

  5. Great job on that accidental 20 miler! I am not too surprised because you are an awesome runner! Happy New Year!

  6. I have made strength training an emphasis of my triathlon off season and this circuit looks great. I'm definitely going to try it out. There is a ton of evidence in PT journals right now supporting functional training and you are hitting all the right stuff especially by focusing on the hips and bum. Happy New Year and best of luck reaching all of your goals in 2012!

  7. Those miles flew by! It was such a beautiful day and gave me confidence to run outside again until this morning when I read about the guy who got attacked by pit bulls on the south side and is now in critical condition. I'm a scaredy cat!

    Strength and flexibility training are so important. I realize this more and more. You are well on your way to an awesome marathon in may!

  8. Thanks for posting your workouts! Congrats on an "accidental" 20 miler too--not a bad way to start out the year!

  9. Yay! So glad you shared your routine. I will be printing and using this for myself. THANK YOU!