runners are athletes
We have all heard the story of the young person who found their niche in running because they failed at other sports. I always have mixed emotions when hearing of this experience. My concern with this 'came into running because I was awful at everything else' story is that it implies that there is a distinction between a 'runner' and an 'athlete'. This notion is fairly widespread and, I believe, quite detrimental to the long-term progression of any runner. When we acknowledge the runner as an athlete and continually address all-around athletic development in addition to running development, we create the best environment for long-term progression as a runner.
Lift Weights, Play Games
Over the past 30 years I have coached middle school beginners, high school state champions, NCAA Division 1 All-Americans, and an Olympian. At each and every level we have stressed the pairing of running progression with all-around athletic development. We made the weight room exercises, agility drills, and other athletic games an integral part of our practice routines. Our athletes always seemed more durable and to have that 'extra gear' at the finish when compared with the competition. This was due, in my opinion, to the training we did in addition to our running.
Pro triathlete Dylan Sorensen utilizes hang cleans, an Olympic lift, to improve core strength, power, and athleticism.
incorporate hurdle drills
Throughout my college coaching career, our weight room routine consisted of Olympic-style lifts with an emphasis on power, explosion, and athleticism. At least twice a week we worked on our agility and mobility through specific drills. In addition, we also taught every athlete basic hurdle techniques.
Hurdle drills and hops help Dylan gain mobility, agility, and develop explosiveness.
sprint! do general strength exercises
Every week we would pair these drills with short sprint reps of 40-80-120 meters with an emphasis on proper sprint mechanics, speed, and relaxation at max velocities. It is my firm belief that this emphasis of all-around athletic development reduced the frequency and duration of running injuries that our athletes sustained. In addition to reducing injury, this athletic development helped create runners with more speed and explosion. All of our athletes became stronger at every event; our 5k runners could drop down to the 800m and put out a great performance. The speed they could produce in the shorter races only helped to set them apart from most of the 'pure distance' runners they were competing with in their main events.
Under Armour runner Rachel Schneider completes general strength exercises to enhance her all-around athletic ability.
How Does this Apply to You?
The principles of all-around athletic development apply well for every age and level of runner. It's not just college and Olympic level runners who benefit from a training plan that encompasses speed, agility, and power. As we age, the benefits of incorporating 'athletic' training are exponentially more important to maintaining fitness. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced road/trail racer, you will stay healthy and race faster by becoming a better athlete. If you would like a specialized training plan to build your athleticism and reduce injury to increase your success in running, head to my coaching services page to contact me directly.