I’ve been experimenting with various strength training programs as I feel strength training (especially core) is important for runners. Strength training is important not only because it makes you stronger, but also provides some level of insurance against injury and improves overall physical fitness. However, as far as strength training making you a faster runner, I think it depends upon each individual. I personally don’t believe strength training makes me run faster, but it does contribute to reduced fatigued toward the end of a marathon – especially the last 4 to 6 miles of a marathon. Also, because I routinely strength train, I’ve probably avoided some injuries, which allowed me to follow training plans without much disruption due to injury.
To be honest, I find strength training very boring and don’t enjoy it much. Fortunately, as a runner, I don’t need to be in the gym lifting heavy weights for hours on end. In my opinion, runners can get most of the benefits from strength training with as little as two or three 20 to 30 minute strength workouts a week. As a runner, we tend to not want to bulk up and have to carry extra weight, so we’re more interested in developing the core muscles, and much of this training can be done in the comfort of our home through self resistance exercises such as push-up, crunches, planks, pull-ups, etc. And the simpler we can keep these exercise programs, the easier we can maintain the routine for minimal costs.
I’ve experimented with many programs, such as self-designed self-resistant circuit programs, hitting the resistance machines at the gym, and P90X. I was somewhat successful with all these programs, but I’m still seeking that most effective and efficient program that will end the elusive search for the perfect program. The circuit programs were okay, but got old after a while. The resistance machines at the gym is fine, but having to take the time to drive back and forth to the gym, sharing machines with other gym rats and the inefficiency of having to use so many machines to get a full body workout doesn’t lend itself to an ideal program – especially for people with tight schedules. I found P90X to be a very effective and a good program, but I believe it is way too intense for runners and requires you to put running on the back burner for 90 days, which I wasn’t or most runners I know are not ready to do. But if you are not a runner and want a holistic approach to fitness, then P90X may do well for you. Therefore, it leaves me still seeking an ideal strength training program that I can incorporate into my non-running days. I’ve been reading a lot recently about training with a kettlebell and many people out there seem to be high on it. As luck would have it, last week, as I was walking through a sports store, I spotted the KettleWorX program and I was intrigued. I bought the 20 lb kettlebell and embarked on the program this week.
The program requires three 20 minute (or 26 minutes if you count the warm-up and cooldown) sessions a week and takes you through various exercises using the kettlebell. There is a resistance, core, and cardio session. I just finished the first week of training and I must say I was quite impressed with the quality and intensity of the workouts. On the resistance and cardio days, I was drenched in sweat after only a 20 minute workout. Also, I found the training very efficient and worked the entire body. Even though I considered myself in pretty good shape before I started the program, I am experiencing muscle pains in all kinds of areas of my body that I have never really felt pain before – and I’m talking about the good pain of muscles recovering from a workout. I also like the fact that the time commitment to the program is fairly minimal, the 20 minute workout goes by pretty quickly and dare I say, it was kind of fun.
Now, since I’m still only into the first week of using this program, the jury is still out on its effectiveness as it relates to running. Therefore, I’m going to hold off on any endorsement for a couple months at which time I should have a better assessment of the program. However, I will say that KettleWorX and I did get off on the right foot.