We use all sorts of muscles when we run. Leg muscles are the obvious ones but we need a strong midsection (you may hear people refer to your core when talking about muscles in this area) to maintain good running form or posture. These muscles act as a corset around your entire abdomen, carefully holding in place your internal organs. Our core muscles and our back muscles support our spine and we need good spinal alignment in running as well as day to day life to avoid referred injury and/or back problems. And finally we need good upper body strength. We use our arms in synergy with our legs as we run; we pump them to generate leg lift.
There are plenty of ways to strengthen these groups of muscles and being a personal trainer, I have a lot of experience in working with people to develop optimum muscle function. In this post I will be discussing how to hit all of the muscles you need to improve your running form, capacity and times whilst out running with your dog.
Plan your run so that you know what exercises you are going to perform at each stop and how many stops you are going to make. Perform a brief full body stretch and then try the following:
- Standing in front of a bench or rock about 50cm high step up onto it with one leg 1. Bend leg 2 at your knee and bring your knee into your chest as you step up without touching the bench with leg 2. The finish position in this exercise is balancing on one leg on the bench. For added challenge reach your arms above your head or if there is a rock lying close do the exercise holding a heavy rock.
As well as strengthening your leg muscles this exercise focuses on instability. You therefore also work the balancing muscles of your core and around your ankles.
- If it’s not too muddy a nice way to work muscles of the upper body are doing Rocco presses. Arrange yourself into a position where your hands and feet are on the ground with your bum high in the air so you form a triangle (think down dog yoga pose) then all you do is nose dive the ground by bending your elbows aiming for your nose to touch the ground between your hands. You will rock on your toes, if you can’t get down at first gradually work at it and in time aim to get further and further down.
This is a great exercise for your triceps, upper pectorals and shoulders.
- Find a flat piece of ground and place your feet 2 hip widths apart with your toes pointing forwards. Keeping your heels on the ground and back completely flat, stick your bum out and fold forwards at your hip as you bend your knees and squat. Ensure you keep your bum sticking out so that your weight is all on your heels not your toes. When you have got as low as you can spring up and jump into the air as high as you possibly can and land gently and come down into a slow squat again. You should aim to generate a spring and recoil type action,
A squat jump gives all the benefit of a lower limb and core workout that an ordinary squat would with the added plyometric element providing massive anaerobic advantages.
- This exercise starts with a squat. When you reach your lowest squatting position you tip forwards and allow your hands to catch you on the ground, jump both legs at the same time out and behind you so that you end up in a full press up position. Perform a press up. If this is too tough then flex your elbows a little bit but keep a strict straight body by holding your core muscle tight and not letting your back sag in a plank position. Jump your legs in and push your hands off the ground so that you are back at the bottom of your squat again. Then stand up. Repeat immediately, etc…
Here you work all your muscles; legs in the squatting action, core in the plank and press up parts along with pectorals, triceps and shoulders.
You can perform these exercises as often as you feel you want to; there is a pretty linear correlation between the amount of time you train and the results you see. Just remember the golden rule of muscle training which is do not train a muscle if it is sore. It’s not to say you can’t work other muscle groups though!
To get a full workout when running with your dog, you can also intersperse with pace changes for example sprint, tempo and/or hill running. Dogs love the variety and chasing them or vice versa up hills adds a playful element to your run.
Being a Brighton personal trainer, I am lucky to have the ocean with its benefits available to me so running with my dog along the seafront is one of the many pleasures myself and my four legged friend take advantage of regularly.