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Setting goals key to finding a weight training program for runners

Running & Fitness
Saturday, November 14, 2020

I was reading the book, “YOU (only faster)”, by Greg McMillan on aspects of running. It is a very detailed book that has programs for serious runners interested in improving their times in races. There are programs for races from the 5K distance to the marathon. It covers almost everything you need to know about training, dieting, rest and recovery, and race preparation. The one portion that interested me is his emphasis on needing to build in rest days. Besselink, in his book, “RunSmart” also emphasized the importance of rest. Both books focus on running faster. 

There are a few runners that run for fitness and are completely satisfied with their present speed and have no interest in running faster. This is okay and the important thing is that the person is moving and exercising. There is one point I have observed with runners that are not interested in running faster is that even at a slow pace, they still want to know their time in a race. It seems that in the next race they put in a series of a faster walking, or a slow jog, to the finish line for a faster finish time. It is almost human nature for runners to want to gradually be able to run faster. Even watching ads on television showing car commercials it seems that many of the ads emphasize the speed of the car. It is bound to affect a runner’s behavior in training, even if it is sub-conscious.

McMillan shows his 10 rules of running that pertain to all levels of runners. As with any detailed book the reader has to “know the language” of the topic. Whether you are reading a book on Physiology of Exercise, Chemistry, Physics, or Kinesiology, the book has a language that needs to be understood to learn the lessons in the book. McMillan has a simple phrase that summarizes a training program. He writes, “Optimal Stress + Optimal Rest = Optimal Progress”. This seems like an easy program to follow. Reading into the information the reader finds “hidden words” that make the simple phrase a little more complicated. Words such as ‘under rest’,’ quick recovery’, and ‘long recovery’, that need to be adhered to for the “stress + rest = progress” training program to work.

Simple terms like “stress” and “rest” have a different meaning when it pertains to runners versus the general population. To a runner stress means that some days during the week they are going to have to run a faster pace. And rest does not mean that the runner becomes sedentary, but has an easier training day, or does a program of stretching, bike riding, or swimming, for a couple of days. 

The idea of a day of stress has enough variety to keep a training program interesting. A training day of intervals has any number of options from running the straightaways and jogging the curves, to interval distances from a quarter mile to one mile. There are days when running ‘fartleks’ can be tried. Even the word ‘fartlek” is one of those words that only a runner would know. On an average training day the runner might try ‘kicking’ it to the end of the run for a few hundred yards to learn speed. There are so many programs that will fit the definition of stress that it is not hard to keep a weekly program interesting and contribute to the "Optimal Progress."

The definition of rest is almost as varied as the definition of stress. A rest day allows the body to recover from a stress training day. If the stress day was long and hard the term ‘long recovery’ is necessary. For a day of a less strenuous stress workout, a ‘quick recovery’ day may suffice. Rest can be anything from a relaxed, slow pace run for a short distance, to walking pace. Programs of stretching is always good to include for a runner. Even stretching has options from simple stretching exercises like touching your toes to doing yoga. A program of weight resistance is always a good addition to any fitness program. The key to a weight training program is to establish a goal of why you are lifting weights. The program should be designed to fit the demands of running. There are programs in weight training for powerlifting, bodybuilding, Olympic Lifting, lifting to get stronger for a specific sport, gaining weight, and even losing weight. The program can be designed to fit the demands of the individual’s fitness level and their running ability. The key to a weight training program for runners is to find a qualified trainer that understands the demands of running and can design a program to meet the runner’s needs. McMillan’s book is very detailed and has tremendous variety to follow if interested.

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