Dragon T-shirt

*How distance runners think they’ll look after spending some time in the gym*

“I’m going to build extra massand run slower.” It’s not a very encouraging thought for most runners – but that’s what they fear will happen if they start lifting weights. With visions of huge muscle-bound men and women grunting while throwing chalk-covered weights around the gym, it’s not surprising that many runners shy away from the weight room. But these stereotypes are wrong: runners can actually benefit from a wide variety of gym routines, ranging from plyometric (jump) training to improve neuromuscular efficiency, to upper-body weights to improve core stability and reduce unwanted rotation. In general, resistance training can cut the risk of injury, correct for muscular imbalances and improve strength in muscles, connective tissues, tendons and ligaments.

One key area where runners often develop problems is around the hips, where muscle imbalances can lead to a host of problems, such as hamstring strains and hip pain. Fortunately, a few key strengthening exercises, described below, will help address the underlying problems.

Muscle imbalances can be defined as differences in muscle length or muscle strength between opposing muscles or between the same muscles on opposite sides of the body. Runners typically develop weak gluteus maximus (buttocks) and iliopsoas muscles (deep hip flexors), while two superficial hip flexors (tensor fascia lata and the rectus femoris) and the hamstring muscle groups become strong and quite dominant. Stronger and tighter hip flexors also alter the pelvic alignment leading to anterior (forward) pelvic tilt, exacerbating the problem of dormant gluteals. These muscle imbalances result in movement impairments and altered joint motion at the hip. This phenomenon is known as gluteal amnesia, and can result in hamstring strains and other hip problems.

To assess for hamstring dominance, try this movement: Lie on your back and lift your hips off the ground (this is called a “glute bridge”). Those individuals with hamstring dominance and weak gluteals will immediately contract the hamstrings to lift the hips. The goal is to have minimal to no hamstring activation during this movement.

So, what can you do to avoid gluteal amnesia? First of all, don’t use the hamstring curl machine. It will not correct for dominant hamstrings and it\s not functional for running. You’ll need to lengthen the strong thigh hip flexors by performing a static hip flexor stretch: Place one knee on the ground with your other leg in front of you. Keep a straight articleure and squeeze your glutes to push your hips forward. Hold your front knee over the toes and keep your abdominals contracted. You should feel a stretch in front of your hips.

Next, make sure to incorporate proper hip strengthening exercises. Here are a few:

Glute bridge exercise

 

Lie on your back, just as in the glute bridge position described above. This time, place an elastic band around your thighs. Tighten your abs and drive your heels into the ground while pushing them away from you. This will activate your quadriceps and inhibit (turn off) your hamstring muscles. Now drive your hips up by squeezing your gluteals. Keep pushing your feet away from you while you are in the up position. Open your knees to activate the lateral gluteal muscles. Your hamstrings should be relaxed during the entire exercise. Hold for a count of 6 and repeat 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Single-leg deadlift

 

Stand holding dumbbells in your hands. Bend one knee and place that foot on a bench behind you. While keeping a straight, neutral spine, push your hips back as you bend forward from the waist. The leg in contact with the ground should be relaxed with a slight bend. At the bottom of the movement, your upper body should reach parallel or just below parallel. It’s vital to keep your spine from rounding during the entire movement. Perform 3 sets of 8 repetitions per side.

Reverse towel slide lunge

 

Stand with one foot on a slide board or on a towel on a slippery surface. While holding dumbbells in your hands and with your chest up, slide back into a lunge with the foot that’s on the towel. Without touching the floor, drive your rear knee down and keep your front knee over your ankle. To get up from the bottom position, drive your front foot into the floor and rise up with minimal help from the sliding leg. You can also try 3 sets of 8 repetitions per side.

Keep in mind, it’s best to get professional advice when designing a proper strength training program. Proper technique training is also crucial to ensure your time in the gym is effective. Now, get your butt in the gym!!

This piece was my first published article (ever!) – in the March 2009 issue of Canadian Running.

Thanks for reading,

-Jon

photo credit: Anita Robicheau via photopin cc

Astrid Billfalk-Kelly

Personal Strength Training by Thomas King

I wanted to add strength training to my cardio, but have always felt gyms to be a bit intimidating, and was worried I would hurt myself without some supervision and help. JKC was highly recommended by several work colleagues. Thomas and Jon are both fantastic, making sure that everyone gets a highly personalized work out in a very supportive environment. The attention to detail and professionalism are second to none. The groups are very small, but very supportive and make the workouts even more fun. Since getting pregnant (36 weeks as I write this) I’m so happy that they continue to help me get stronger while always being safe.

sumo deadlift

I had always wanted to start lifting weights and get stronger, but didn’t know where to start. I was looking not just for a gym, but for training on proper technique to prevent injury and a program designed for my specific goals. I also wanted a fun and supportive atmosphere to keep me coming back. JKC delivered on all of this and more.

Jon and Thomas have a wealth of knowledge that help their clients get the most out of their time in the gym. Programs are continuously modified to keep the workouts challenging. Even through everyone’s program is unique, you always have the coaches and other clients cheering you on and pushing you to achieve new bests.

I had been struggling with work-life balance resulting in not exercising or playing hockey as much as I had been doing in the past. In addition to being out of shape, I was starting to experience some back/shoulder issues and realized I needed to make some changes. Around this time, a friend (who was also a client) recommended JKC and that’s when I started!

You really feel part of a community where everyone is welcoming and supportive. You get a program that is designed specifically to achieve your goals, with the ongoing coaching, progress tracking and support required to achieve them. The JKC team are very knowledgeable about fitness and conditioning, and very engaging with everyone to answer questions or discuss anything and everything training related. I also like the flexible scheduling and gym times that work for my schedule (I like early mornings and evenings).

I joined JKC because I wanted to better care for my physical health, but didn’t really know how, or where, to begin.  Seeking help from a trainer seemed like a wise choice, and I had heard great things about the staff at JKC. Anyone who knows me knows that I hate exercising.  So, I’ve only ever tried sticking with a gym routine twice in my life.  Each experience consisted of me wandering around, not knowing what to do, and settling for an elliptical machine or something else that seemed comfortable and non-threatening.  Each session was the same, and I felt like I was wasting my time.

Each session at JKC, however, is specifically crafted for me.  I don’t have to think about what to do, because I’m told what to do.  I don’t have to worry about how to do things properly, because I’m shown (sometimes multiple times!) how to accomplish each task.  I don’t have to be concerned about slipping into a comfortable routine, because Jon and Thomas won’t let that happen.

I have never previously seen the passion and level of care that Jon and Thomas bring to everyone who works out at JKC. Their knowledge, insight and skills are extraordinary, and they work with everyone individually to ensure the best possible results. The attention to detail and to every person’s specific requirements and goals, and the incredible, constant encouragement they provide, is, in my opinion, what truly distinguishes JKC from any other program in which I’ve participated. I am extremely pleased with the progress I’ve achieved thus far, and it’s largely attributable to Jon and Thomas and the approach they take to training and working with people.

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