Q: I know doing more of something is the best way to get better at it. But I don’t want to get bored or demotivated. Can I benefit from non-running exercises? Which do you recommend?
Brandon Marsh answers:
A: Doing the same thing repeatedly can get boring, but avoiding it altogether is not the answer. The reality is that there is no substitution for real, pound-the-pavement running.
When people ask about non-running exercises, they usually fall into one of two camps. Camp A really doesn’t like traditional running and is seeking an alternative cardiovascular exercise. Camp B is the avid runner working toward a PR. No matter your goal, there are ways to add variety.
Camp A folks have several options, including fast-paced walking on a treadmill. Unlike running outdoors, using a treadmill allows you to track distance, calories and speed and to adjust incline to simulate hills. Elliptical machines are another popular choice that feature pre-set workout programs.
If you suffer from an injury, water running is a great exercise that provides little to no impact. The traditional method is deep water running, which involves wearing a running belt. The second method is to simply wear old shoes and run in shallow water where your feet still hit the bottom.
For those in camp B looking to enhance their running game, you’ll see the most benefit in strengthening your core. Your midsection is a key player in running (among other sports), because your center of gravity and sense of balance originates here. To keep strong form, you need a strong center.
You can achieve a lean, mean midsection by practicing stabilizing exercises. There are a couple of fun and effective tools you can use at home, such as Gaiam CorePlus Reformer Kit, which comes complete with a 45-minute instructional DVD. Or follow a full-body workout plan using the Valeo Resistance Tube.
If you’re motivated to create your own program, I have found these bodyweight exercises to be the most valuable:
- Basic Plank: on your forearms and toes, engage your abs, flatten your back and don’t let your bottom sag down or peak up; hold for as long as possible, working up to a couple minutes.
- Side Plank with Leg Raise: lie on your side with your body aligned from head to toe. Raise up onto your hand (or forearm if you’re a beginner). Lift your top leg so it’s parallel to the floor. Lower leg to complete one rep; repeat and switch sides.
- Single-Leg Squats: with your back leg elevated on a bench and front foot facing straight ahead, lower into a squat (this will look like a lunge, but you aren’t moving forward). For advanced athletes: place your front foot on a stability disc or Bosu ball to make it even harder to balance.
- Walking Lunges: with or without dumbbells in hand, step your right foot a few feet forward and sink down into the lunge with both knees bent. Stand up and lunge with left leg; repeat to continue “walking.”
Though this is up for debate, I feel strongly that stabilization exercises are worthwhile additions to a running program. But don’t forget: you still have to actually RUN!
Amy Marsh is a four-time Ironman champion, two-time IronDistance champion, and was named the 2010 USAT Long Distance Triathlete of the Year. Brandon Marsh has been competing in triathlons since 1988, and can be counted on to be a top-10 contender in every event he enters. Got a question about swim-bike-run or sports nutrition for Team Marsh? Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. ‘Like’ them on Facebook or follow on Twitter: Brandon @BrandonMarshTX and Amy @AmyCMarsh.