January 07, 2009

Speed & strength training

My new ART therapist, Brent, told me - as others have before - that strength training not only helps avoid injuries for distance runners, it also aids to improve speed. So perhaps I should be very thankful for the unusually large amount of snowfall in the last couple of weeks because it prompted me to sign up with a local gym.

Yesterday I went to my new gym for the second time. While the outside temperatures have warmed slightly, big piles of snow still line the roads and cover sidewalks. It has also been raining non-stop for at least 48 hours.

Tim dropped me off at the gym while he drove to the pool to do his swim training. At the gym a few people were working out, but the five treadmills were empty. The gym's manager recommended, like Sunday, that I use the newest Technogym treadmill.

Originally my Australia-based coach Pat had given me a timed speed session of eight 500-metre repeats for today. He provides me with a time goal for those repeats and I have to report back my actual times. When I told him that I'd have to do my session on the treadmill, he suggested to simply run eight 2-minute efforts on the treadmill instead.

After an easy 10-minute warm-up and some light stretches, it was time to speed up. This treadmill is very responsive - the buttons respond well and the speed of the band changes quickly too. My legs felt good, and much looser after yesterday's ART treatment.

The session went well - I felt quite tired in the second half of my 2-minute repeats but recovered quickly in the rest period in between (I took about 2 minutes). I was able to slightly increase the speed, starting off at 10.5mph, before doing half of the repeats at 11mph with the final one completed at 11.5mph. The absolute numbers don't necessarily mean that much, as running on treadmills takes less effort than running on the road. (Then there's the calibration of each treadmill.)

After the speed session I had some time left before Tim would return so I had time for some upper body strength training. When I started on a machine that works the abs, the gym's manager quickly came over and showed me how to do it properly. He later came over again with another pointer and made sure I did it exactly right.

While I have done some strength training before, I am a novice at it so I appreciate all the advice from someone with experience.

I must have used the following two machines as they were meant to be used. But just as I thought that my biceps were quite strong on the fourth machine, the manager came over again. A few pointers quickly helped me realize that my biceps weren't as strong as I thought - I simply wasn't doing it right.

It also helped me realize that the gym's manager is not only extremely knowledgeable about strength training, he is very helpful too. A very lucky find indeed.

I may to start using the routine that I followed twice before for about 6-8 weeks. It's described in the book by Start to Finish Ironman Training by Paul Huddle & Roch Frey. But I will make sure to ask the manager at the gym for his advice.

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