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Posts tagged ‘Strength Training’


Last week when I was reading how to best prepare for my upcoming hilly marathon, a couple of articles mentioned the importance of strong  hamstrings.  Over the past month I have been doing more to build strength in my hamstrings but I wanted to learn a little more about their role in running.  Here is what I learned… Read more

Running a Hilly Race

I signed up for the City of Oaks Marathon on November 4th.  I’ve run it before and swore I would never do it again.  It was incredibly hilly, pouring down rain, and freezing cold.  I think it took me about 2 months to fully recover.  Well anyway, in the name of a new challenge I signed up for it again.  After all, the website says it’s a “flatter course.”

I have the fortune of living right along the course so I checked out the map this morning, and planned out my tempo run. I might as well become as familiar as possible with the course since I have the opportunity. I did my two mile warm up and then started my tempo pace, 7:05/mile.  Yeah, that was not happening. I couldn’t make myself hit that pace no matter how hard I tried. Why? Because after every small stretch of flat road, there was a long ascending climb.  Not to mention it was over 80 degrees and near 100% humidity.  I thought to myself, oh my, what have I gotten myself into?  But then I came to a realization. I can run these hills every single day if I want.  I can master them. They are right out my front door so just embrace them.

Did you know…

Physiologically speaking, hill running…
1) Increases your aerobic capacity that enables you to use less oxygen at increasingly longer distances.
2) Improves your running economy that enables you to use less oxygen to run at a faster pace.
3) Increases your stamina that enables you to run farther at a given pace.
4) Builds strength in your gluteals (buttock), quadriceps (front of thigh), gastrocnemius (upper calf), and soleus (lower calf) muscles.

Biomechanically speaking, hill running…
1) Improves your stride length (from uphill running) and your stride frequency (from downhill running).
2) Increases your ankle flexion that enables you to “pop” off the ground more quickly, so that you can spend less time on the ground and more time in the air.
3) Teaches you how to run relaxed.

-Mindy Solkin

This article has three great hill workouts as well as exercises to strengthen your calves and hamstrings. It’s super important to strengthen these muscles because hill running causes them to fatigue quickly.  (In my opinion, hills cause the entire body to fatigue a little more quickly, but that’s just me.)

I’m actually very thankful that I live right along the course and can do my long runs on these hills.  Not only will it help prepare me physically, but it will also help me mentally.  If I know what to expect, I can run a smarter race.  Here’s to the hills – may I run them, love them, and master them!


My sister cheering me on during the 2009 City of Oaks Marathon. She runs in heels!



Happy Trails and Happy Running,



Yesterday I received some really good feedback from fellow runners about the importance of squats.  Almost everyone said squats were an integral part of their workout and that they have been very effective in preventing injuries.  It was interesting to read about the many different types of squats people were doing: jump squats, one legged squats, bulgarian split squats, side squats, etc.  One of my G+ friends, Otto, reminded me of the importance of lunges as well.  After all, life is about variety, right?  So it only seems fair that we give this equally as important exercise a mention in the blogosphere today… Read more

Electro Muscle Stimulation

Yesterday, one of my Google+ friends shared a video of ultrarunner Kilian Jornet.  Other than being completely amazed by his approach to running and how eloquently he spoke about the sport, I was very curious to know more about one of the recovery methods he was using.  Here is the video so you can see what I’m referring to.  It’s right around minute 5:35 but I highly recommend watching the entire video.

After typing in many different search terms into Google and trying to figure out what this was called, I finally figured out to type “Kilian Jornet electrodes” and got exactly what I was looking for.  He was using electro muscle stimulation.  This was far beyond my knowledge of foam rollers and The Stick for injury prevention so tonight I’m asking…

What is electrostimulation and why is it good for athletes?

Electro muscle stimulation is when electrodes are placed close to certain muscles and deliver low electrical currents throughout the body.  It is thought that this muscle stimulation has great benefits for athletes such as relieving pain, helping with recovery, relieving stress, and increasing range of motion.  It is also suggested the ES can help athletes improve their performance after reaching a plateau.  I looked through a few studies on the effectiveness of ES, and  their findings concluded that ES  is actually quite effective in increasing muscle strength, performance, and helping with injury prevention.  Electro muscle stimulation works by using different programs, or patterns of stimulation, to train different muscle fibers.  Different patterns of electrostimulation can help improve fatigue resistance (in other words, more endurance) while others can increase muscle power.

The FDA regulates the distribution of electrostimulators.  You can buy them over the counter or you can get a prescription.  An EMS that you purchase OTC can only legally claim that it helps with muscle toning.  A prescription device, however, can claim to help with muscle spasms, range of motion, and blood circulation.  I looked online to see how much these devices cost, and the price can vary greatly.  Some cost $60 while others cost $850.  I’m pretty sure this is not something I’ll be investing into any time soon, but it was certainly interesting to learn about.  Maybe I’ll find a friend who has one I can try out =)


Here is a video that describes how to use an EMS device:



I hope everyone has a great Friday evening and a safe weekend of running and racing!

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


Hill Running

Hill running.  You either hate it or you love it.  I doubt there are many people who, when turning a corner and see a long steep incline, see it the same way as they do a nice, long, flat road.  Perhaps if they’ve always lived in a hilly part of the world and don’t realize flat roads exist, maybe….  But for many of us, this is just not the case.  Read more

HEAT – Highly Effective Athletic Training

About a year ago, a new sort of “gym” called HEAT opened up beside us.  HEAT stands for “Highly Effective Athletic Training,” and I’ve always had a desire to try a class.  The music is always pumping, people are sprinting while others are lifting weights, and the instructor is keeping everyone motivated with his intensity.  Well on Wednesday, I was finally able to attend a class (thanks to the Thanksgiving holiday and a day off work), and Robin gave me my first dose of Cardio Heat.  I loved every minute of it.

Our session started out on the RealRyder spin bikes.  If you’ve never seen one, please check them out – a visual will help you understand why they are great for HEAT.  Robin started us off with a brief warm up and then we got right to it.  When the music started we pedaled at our intensity 7, then we sprinted during the chorus, took it easy for a minute, increased the resistance, stood up, sat down, spun faster, raced (which is even faster), and then did it all over again.  It was awesome and the music made it so much better (Robin, please tell me where you get your music!). After 20 minutes on the bike, half of us went to the treadmill while the other half started to jump rope.  For the next 40 minutes we alternated between intervals on the treadmills, jumps, push ups, and abs.  From what I can remember (because some of it is a blur), we did the following:

  • Ran two minutes on the treadmill (not all out, but fast)
  • Jumped rope for 2 minutes
  • Ran 90 seconds on the treadmill, with 60 seconds of sprinting
  • Side lunges with a jump
  • Ran another 90 seconds of sprinting
  • Squat jumps
  • Increased the incline, and sprinted for 90 more seconds
  • Tuck jumps (these are HARD to do for 90 seconds straight)
  • Increased the incline to 10% and ran for 90 seconds
  • Mountain climbers with push ups
  • Ran faster on a 10% incline but with 10 seconds on and 10 seconds off
  • Abs (but fast)
  • 15% incline but no speed faster than 4.5mph
  • Ran 60 seconds all out sprinting

When we were done, I wasn’t 100% spent (which obviously meant I could have tried harder), but I was tired.  Robin gave us all high fives and my much underused muscles were definitely feeling it.

So what is so great about what they do at HEAT and how is it more effective than other traditional forms of exercise?

First, the RealRyder stationary bike.  This bike is not your normal stationary bike, and the first time I saw it, I thought “Wow, I’m going to fall right off.”  This bike simulates actual outdoor biking by allowing the rider to move side to side.  It allows you to use more muscle groups, which in turn, leads to a higher calorie burn.  According, to the RealRyder website, there is a 20% increase in calorie burn than with a traditional bike.  For me, one of the most difficult parts of our workout was trying to keep it steady and not moving from side to side.  I really had to engage my arms and my core to keep the bike centered, and they were sore the next day because of it.

Second, intervals on the treadmill.  Interval training involves alternating high intensity exercise with recovery periods and are a GREAT way to increase cardiovascular fitness.   Because you are exercising more vigorously, you will get a higher calorie burn.  Intervals force you to push your heart and muscles to the max.  Another benefit of this type of exercise is you help to avoid overuse injuries.  You are only doing the interval for a short period of time and aren’t pounding the pavement for hours on end, which can be very helpful to your knees, hips, and legs.

Third, jumps.  I’ve always loved jumps because they aren’t easy and they get your heart pumping.  Jumping, and in particular jumping rope, is great for the heart, strengthens the upper and lower body, and burns a lot of calories in a short period of time.  Jumping is beneficial to us runners because it improves agility and overall coordination.  They can also help strengthen your calf muscles, which will lead to you powering up your next Heartbreak Hill.

Clearly, we are runners and running is our sport of choice.  However, a class like Cardio Heat can be more effective than your next easy 3 miler, and if you’re looking for a way to mix up your routine, this is a great way to do it.  Your muscles are guaranteed to be sore the next day (or next two days as mine are), and by working new muscle groups and pushing yourself to new limits, your running will thank you.  HEAT has taken the interval approach to fitness, made it fun, and created an environment for fitness that allows everyone to be challenged.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,