Pump [CLAP CLAP] You UP.
A week ago, a friend and newbie runner asked me, “Can you help me with some strength stuff? I don’t even know where to start.”
Sometimes I take my background as a jock for granted, and I neglect to realize that unless you’ve had a coach breathing down your neck while counting your bench repeats, you probably have no idea what the heck to do in a weight room. Or where to start with “strength stuff.”
Fear not! You can build strength and speed without a single piece of equipment. All you need is a little guidance and a little gravity.
Start by breaking strength into three key areas: Arms, abs and legs.
- Push-ups: Yes, they can be hard, but that is because they are the most effective upper-body strength exercise you can do. If you need to put your knees on the ground for support, it’s totally fine. Make sure your back is straight, your eyes are looking down and your butt is tucked in (no air-humping and passing them off as push-ups). Suggested: three sets of 10 with a minute rest in between sets.
- Dips: Sit with the heels of your hands on the edge of a sturdy chair seat. Slide your butt off the seat and support your weight with your hands. Bend your elbows back and slowly lower your butt toward the floor. Keep your elbows tucked in. Your body should just clear the seat. Suggested: three sets of 10 with a minute rest in between sets.
- Traditional Sit-ups: Just like you used to do in gym class! Lay flat on the ground with your knees slightly bent and your feet flat on the ground. Cross your arms over your chest and sit up slowly. Lower your torso back to the ground. Repeat. Slow, steady movements are the key here. Suggested: three sets of 20 with a minute rest in between sets.
- Crunches: Lay flat on the ground, cross your ankles and raise your knees in the air. Place your hands behind your neck and crunch up toward your knees. Remember, you want to engage your abdominal muscles, so don’t use your arms to yank your neck up. Suggested: three sets of 20 with a minute rest in between sets.
- Forward Lunges: Stand up and put your hands on your hips. Step your right foot out a stride’s length (your knee should be at a 90-degree angle to your ankle) and lunge forward as your left knee dips toward the ground. Step back. Repeat on the left. If you do them right, you’ll FEEL IT the next day. It’s the feeling of getting stronger, so deal with it. Suggested: three sets of 10 on each leg with a minute rest in between sets.
- Cross-over Lunges: These work the same as standard lunges, only instead of stepping your right foot out, step your right foot across your body a stride’s length. Suggested: three sets of 10 on each leg with a minute rest in between sets.
- Calf Raises: Stand with your feet hips-width distance apart. Place your hands on your hips. Then, quickly raise up to your tippy toes. Hold it for a few seconds and lower slowly back to your heels. Repeat. For added difficultly, balance on one leg or go to a step. Suggested: three sets of 10 with a minute rest in between sets.
- Clam Shells: Lay on your side, bend your legs slightly, keep your feet together and raise your top knee like a clamshell. Suggested: three sets of 10 on each side with a minute rest in between sets.
As a general rule of thumb, I alternate an arm exercise, a leg exercise and an ab exercise into a set. Then, I pick a new set of exercises to rotate through. For example:
- Set 1: Push-Ups/Sit-Ups/Forward Lunges
- Set 2: Dips/Crunches/Cross-over Lunges
You get the idea.
Another easy way to work strength training into your exercise is to incorporate it right into your run. Since you don’t need any equipment for these exercises, you can do them on the go. For example:
- If you’re outside, stop half way through your run and do a few sets of strength exercises. Complete your route and do a few more sets of strength exercises.
- If you’re inside, warm up for 5-10 minutes on the treadmill. Do a set of strength, and hop back on the ‘mill for 2-3 minutes. Alternate running and strength exercises for 30 minutes. Cool down on the treadmill for 5-10 minutes.
It’s that easy. No weights, no dumb bells, no need to feel intimidated. Now, go get your strength on. — Aidz