• Runner's Winter Strength Workout

    Strength workout for runners winter indoors

    When it comes to running, there's more to it than just pounding the pavement. In order to avoid injury and stay strong, you need to cross train to keep your muscles and joints healthy. Follow our runner's winter workout to give you the base you need to succeed.

    Indoor Winter Workout For Runners

    Warm Up

    Leg Swings

    Hold onto a wall or bar for support, and swing one leg in front and behind you 10 times. Repeat on the other leg. Make sure you feel the stretch in the hamstring as the leg comes forward, and the stretch in the hip as it goes behind you.

    Lateral Leg Swings

    This is the same thing, but now you swing the leg from side to side in front of you. Feel the stretch in the inner thigh (adductor) as the leg swings out to the side.

    Hip Openers

    For this warm up, you imagine you are stepping over invisible hurdles. Lift up your left leg and step it sideways over an invisible hurdle, making sure as the right leg comes over it steps over too. Do 3-4 steps one way and repeat going back the other.

    Main Set

    Banded Back Squats

    Back squats are a great exercise for runners as they target all of the muscle groups in the legs. By using a resistance band round your knees, you will train your hips to stay open and encourage perfect form. This will also help to strengthen your IT band which is a common cause of injury for runners.

    Place the resistance band just above your knees and keep your knees pushing outwards for the duration of the lift. Place a bar on your back and drop into a squat. Make sure your hips drop below your knees and then use your glutes to squeeze you back up. Complete 3 sets of 10 on a fairly light weight.

    Banded Front Squats

    Front squats also work all of the muscles in the legs, but they also encourage you to keep your chest up because the bar is on your front. Front squats will work your glutes harder as you can't cheat!

    Place the resistance band just above your knees again but this time place the bar on your front, supporting it with your hands. Keep your elbows high. Keep your chest proud and drop into a squat. Make sure you really squeeze your glutes so that you can shoot back up without leaning forwards and dropping the bar. Complete 3 sets of 10 on a light weight.

    Deadlifts

    Deadlifts are another important exercise for runners as they will strengthen your back and core so that you can stay strong throughout the race and not suffer from any aches as the miles rack up.

    With the bar on the floor, place your feet under the bar so that it touches your shins and bend your knees so that you can grab the bar. Keep your bum down and your chest high, squeeze your shoulder blades together and pick the bar up off the floor. Lock out at the top by pushing your hips slightly forward and then bend back down to place the bar back on the floor. Do 3 sets of 10 on a fairly heavy weight. Make sure you keep your back dead straight throughout the lift and squeeze your core tight to protect your spine. 

    KB Single Leg Deadlifts

    This is a fantastic exercise, especially if you suffer with pain in your feet and ankles when you run. It will correct any strength imbalances between your legs and help with your balance as well as leg strength.

    Start with the right side: Find your balance on your right leg and hold the kettlebell in your right hand. Slow lean forward so that the kettlebell lowers to the floor while simultaneously lifting your left leg behind you. Squeeze your glutes so that your left leg lifts nice and high and see if you can lean all the way forward so that the kettlebell touches the floor. Slowly pivot back to centre. Repeat 10 times then switch to the other side.

    KB Side Leans

    Time to target the abs. Hold the kettlebell in your right hand and keep it by your side. Lean to the right, moving only your waist. Slide the kettlebell down your right leg and then squeeze your abs to come back up. Repeat 10 times then swap to the left side. 

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Free Weights Vs Resistance Machines - Which Is Better For You?

    free weights vs machines workout gym strength training

    If you're new to the gym then it's perfectly understandable that you've got quite a few questions. The free weights area is full of big, grunting men which can be intimidating while the machines are being hogged by Lycra-clad women doing strange leg movements. But which is best for you? We take a look.

    What's the difference between free weights and resistance machines?

    There is a significant difference between free weights and resistance machines, both in how they work and the results they will give you. The free weights are the barbells and dumbbells in the gym, while the machines are any resistance-based workout machines such as the leg press, assisted chin up machine, or lat pull down.

    There are two types of resistance machine: plate loaded and pin loaded. The plate loaded machines work by the user adding weighted plates to a stack in order to increase the resistance. This can be tricky if it's a busy gym as you may struggle to find the plates that you want and the weight cannot be changed easily. Pin loaded machines have a stack of weights already part of the machine and the user changes the resistance by simply moving a pin up or down. This is better for working on pyramid sets or drop sets when you need to change the weight quickly, and means you don't need to leave the machine in order to change the weight resistance.

    The primary difference between free weights and machines is that machines are fixed in place and only move in certain directions whereas free weights can be moved in any way the user chooses. Free weights force you to use more stabiliser muscles in order to control the weight, whereas resistance machines can help you with the move by keeping you in place.

    lat pull down machine workout gym

    Do free weights or machines build muscle faster?

    In general, free weights activate more muscles than machines and therefore are better for building muscle in the long-run. However, towards the end of your session when your muscles are tired and your form is starting to suffer, machines are safer and can help you to continue training safely. Not only this, machines can help you to train weaker muscles more safely and help them to get as strong as your dominant areas. For example, a squat is a free weight exercise. However, if you are quad-dominant, your hamstrings will start to lag behind. Therefore, you could use the hamstring curl machine after doing your squat sets in order to target your hamstrings separately.

    The best way to build muscle is to use free weights for most of your workout and then use the machines for accessory exercises. As an example, on leg day you will want to focus most of your efforts on the squat. You will then want to do lunges with a barbell or dumbbells. Then, you could target weaker areas with the hamstring curl machine or work on your weaker leg by doing single leg exercises on the leg press.

    gym workout strength training free weights

    Are machines safer than free weights?

    In a lot of ways, yes machines are safer than free weights. Dumbbells and barbells can easily be dropped and if it happens to drop on your hand, your foot, or head, there could be serious injuries that ensue as a result. If you use a resistance machine exactly as prescribed, you should not get injured by the mechanics, although you could still pull a muscle or sustain a sports injury due to not warming up properly or lifting a weight that's too heavy for you.

    Free weights require a lot more control than machines and if you try to lift a free weight that's too heavy - especially if it's going above your head - this can be pretty dangerous. If you're new to lifting weights, you should always have a member of the gym staff show you how to do the exercise properly and with good form. Nearly all gyms will offer an induction to new members which consists of a trainer or fitness instructor taking you around the gym and showing you how all the machines work and which muscle groups they are used for. 

    If you do want to lift a weight that you haven't lifted before or want to go heavy, you should employ the help of a spotter. A spotter is someone who stands over you as you lift the weight and follows your movement. They are there to catch the weight if you start to drop it and to help you finish the move if you cannot. For example, a spotter on the bench press will stand behind the bench and hover their hands under the bar. If the person lifting the weight starts to drop it on their chest, the spotter can lift it back to safety. A bad spotter is someone who assists with the lift while a good spotter is someone who doesn't touch the weight unless absolutely necessary. The spotter needs to be strong enough to rescue you if and when needed and they need to pay full attention while the lift is in progress as your safety is in their hands. 

    gym spotter lifting weights squat powerlifter

    For the squat, the spotter stands behind the person doing the squat and squats with them. They hold their hands under the squatter's armpits to assist them to the top of the movement if needed. A good spotter should not touch the athlete unless absolutely necessary. 

    Free weights vs machines: pros and cons

    Both free weights and resistance machines have their place in a well structure workout programme. Some are better than others and some will suit your needs more than others. Here are the pros and cons of free weights vs resistance machines.

     Free Weights Resistance Machines
    Pro - They will give you a well rounded workout and work multiple muscles at a time, including stabiliser muscles Pro - They are safer than free weights
    Con - You may need a spotter which means you need to find someone willing to help you Con - They do not build muscle as fast
    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • What Is Cross Training For Runners?

    what is cross training for runners

    If you've followed any type of marathon or half marathon training plan, you will no doubt have seen that you should be doing 'cross training' throughout the week as well as running. But what exactly is it? Which type is best? And how is it beneficial for runners? We answer all these questions and more.

    What is cross training?

    When most people hear the phrase 'cross training', they immediately think of the cross trainer (or elliptical) at the gym, but this isn't quite the case. Cross training for runners is simply any other type of training that can supplement and benefit your running training. A triathlete naturally does cross training by swimming, cycling, and running all together as part of their training, but runners can get stuck in a rut of just running. It's hugely important to do cross-training, read on to find out why.

    Read more: 10 Tips To Survive Your First Marathon

    cycling cross training

    Cross training benefits

    So why should runners be doing cross training? Research has found that runners who do cross training such as strength training at a gym are less likely to get running injuries, are more likely to have a higher VO2 max, and are able to perform better. Of course it's perfectly logical that having stronger muscles would mean you are stronger in your running and will be able to get more power out of your training session.

    Depending on the training plan you are following, you may find that cross training replaces some rest days. An intermediate marathon or half marathon training plan will often have you training 6 days a week, with 5 of those for running, 2 or 3 for cross training, and one for rest.  

    Read more: Cross Training Workout For Runners

    gym weights strength training cross-training running

    Is yoga cross training?

    Yoga is certainly a type of cross training, although it may not hold all of the benefits of other sports such as swimming, cycling, and strength training. Yoga has many benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, increasing flexibility, and improving posture and balance. All of these are things that would be beneficial to runners, and therefore doing yoga once a week as part of your training should help you to improve your running performance.

    Read more: Yoga For Runners

    yoga for runners

    Is cycling good cross training for running?

    Cycling is possibly one of the best types of cross-training for running as it targets the legs and core and therefore will strengthen the key muscle groups used when running. Not only this, as it is an aerobic exercise, you will be improving your fitness but it is a low impact activity so will give your joints a chance to rest. 

    A great way to train for the last part of a half marathon or marathon when you are running on empty and struggling to keep going is to do a brick workout. This is a type of workout employed by triathletes and duathletes whereby you go for a run straight after a bike ride. It gets your legs used to running when tired and is a great way for runners to practice keeping going when fatigued and running low on energy.

    cycling triathlon activewear trisuit Sundried

    What is the best type of cross training?

    Swimming

    Swimming is a great way to cross-train as it is zero impact and so will give your joints a chance to recover from pounding the pavements while working your muscles hard. Not only this, it works your muscles in a completely different way to activities like gym workouts and cycling and so will give you a great full-body workout. On top of this, the breath control needed for swimming could help to put you in good habits with your running.

    Strength Training

    This is usually the most popular choice for runners as it is proven to be hugely beneficial to performance, physiology, and fitness. Lifting weights and working on your main muscle groups like core, back, and legs will have a significant impact on your running and will also help to improve the way you look. 

    Skipping

    Skipping is an activity you may not have thought about for cross-training, but it can be hugely beneficial. Skipping works your calf muscles as well as testing the flexibility in your ankle joint, and this translates well to running as they can be areas that are neglected in other parts of training. 

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Train Like A Pro: Strength Training For Triathletes

    triathlete strength training

    Swimming, cycling, and running will inevitably take up most of your time as a triathlete, but hitting the gym and doing strength training is just as important. We chat with two professional triathletes to get the low down on how they strength train to improve their performance and get the most out of their training.

    Matt Leeman - professional triathlete

    Matt doesn't do strength training in the typical sense. Instead of hitting the gym and lifting weights, he uses natural factors like hills to help him improve his strength and increase his muscular endurance. 

    Triathlete strength training

    Strength training is a big component of any sport, the common definition of strength is "the ability to exert a force against a resistance". Each sport has different demands and hence requires different classifications of strength, triathlon predominantly requires strength endurance - the ability to express force many times over.

    Although I personally do not lift weights, which are commonly associated with strength training, I do triathlon-specific strength training, adapting the training of the disciplines to a strength based way of training.

    Swim

    There are swim specific tools that can be utilised to enhance swimming strength, the main ones I use are the pull buoy, hand paddles, and band. The muscles used in swimming are predominantly the lats (side of the back) and triceps. The pull buoy enables swimming with less kicking to maintain the body position so that the upper body can be worked more. The hand paddles create a larger surface area to increase the resistance of a stroke. The band is used to take leg kicking out of the equation and rather get propulsion from the overall movement of the body and core muscles.

    Matt Leeman pro triathlete swimming training triathlon

    Bike

    The majority of the time in a triathlon is spent on the bike so having good bike strength is essential for putting together a good race, both directly, making you ride faster, and indirectly, the less the bike takes out of you, the more you’ll have left for the run. The two things that can be utilised for bike strength are the bike's gears and hills.

    By doing specific intervals ‘over-gearing’ i.e. using a bigger gear than you would usually use to train your leg muscles to produce a greater force so that when we are racing we are working at a lower percentage of our overall capacity. Hills obviously give a great stimulus for developing strength, ensuring you ride on different terrain is important for developing a well rounded strong athlete.

    strength training cycling

    Run

    The main ways in which I train my running strength is using hills and mixed surface terrain. I will often do a specific hill repeat session where one specific hill is targeted and run up multiple times. The beauty of hills is that it prevents you from over-striding and promotes glute engagement, which improves our ability to utilise the bigger muscles in the legs such as glutes and quads that handle fatigue better than the smaller muscles of the leg, which is very important in an endurance sport.

    winner triathlon strength training

    Claire Steels - World Champion duathlete

    Claire tells us about her three favourite strength training exercises and why they are well suited to an endurance athlete.

    Bulgarian Split Squat

    This exercise is great for running and cycling power but also glute, hip and core stability. Unilateral exercises like the Bulgarian split squat are fantastic for developing the individual leg strength required for sports such as running and cycling, where each leg is required to produce power independently.

    duathlon strength training

    TRX Mountain Climbers

    This exercise requires core stability and control whilst moving each leg independently. This replicates the physiological control that is required in a duathlon as a strong core is essential for efficient running and cycling.

    TRX mountain climbers strength training for duathletes

    Kettlebell Swings

    This is a fantastic exercise for developing power through the posterior chain along the back of the body. It challenges the strength of the whole body but primarily the glutes and hamstrings. It is also a fantastic exercise for testing the cardiovascular system while also trying to produce power making it yet another great exercise for duathletes.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Mesomorph Workout

    mesomorph workout fitness muscle body type

    So you've done a test to find out your body type and you've discovered you're a mesomorph - lucky you! Try our workout for mesomorphs so that you can make the most of your ability to build lean muscle and achieve the physique you've always wanted.

    Workout For Mesomorphs

    As a mesomorph, you can pack on muscle easily but need to keep up your cardio so that you don't store excess fat. What that means is HIIT workouts and MetCon workouts will work best for you to attain a great physique. Below is an example workout that a mesomorph may want to follow.

    EMOM - Every Minute On the Minute

    15 kettlebell swings

    8 burpees

    5 box jumps

    15 dumbbell snatches

    5 press ups

    Repeat until 20 minutes have passed. 

    muscular man lifting weights

    This workout incorporates conditioning, power, and cardio in a combination that will get you out of breath, increase your heart rate, and challenge your muscular endurance. For mesomorphs, it should result in increased lean muscle mass as well as burning fat.

    Do a workout of this type 3-5 times a week to really see great results. 

    Posted by Alexandra Parren