Tim joined Garmin Running Ambassador, Dr Martin Yelling, to talk about the mental and physical benefits of strength training for runners and how to add it to your workouts.
Tim met Martin at the 2012 London Paralympic Games through their work together with Paralympic Sprinter and Marathon World Record holder, Richard Whitehead MBE.
Martin has been running for over 40 years, since he ran his first ‘race’; aged 7.
“Without doubt, the thing I personally neglect the most, the thing I think would benefit my own physical wellbeing the most, and the thing I think would do my running the world of good is purposeful, intentional, relevant and appropriate conditioning and strength work. In the current climate I’m a little confused about what this could look like. I feel constantly bombarded by the benefits of ‘fitness workouts at home’ to help me ‘get leaner, stronger and build power’ whilst juggling bags of potatoes or balancing on tins of beans on my head.
Actually, what I’m interested in is how can strength training support me at the moment but also benefit my training and running in the future?”
Tim has been working in Strength and Conditioning for over 12 years and has worked with a number of runners in that time of different levels and understands that strength training tends to be a challenge for runners.
Calisthenics comes from two Greek words Kalos and Sthenos, which means Beauty and Strength and effectively what we’re talking about is bodyweight training. Often people think about bodyweight training as for beginners. So, you think about push ups and pulls ups, but it goes a lot further than that. We would include things like handstands, muscle ups, pistol squats for the lower body – anything really where we move the body in new ways. It’s a very accessible form of training as you don’t need a lot of equipment to get involved.
The really interesting thing is that calisthenics respects the human movement system and the way the body is designed. Rather than breaking it down, for example, an isolated bicep curl… if you want to do a handstand, pistol squat or any of the movements we look at in calisthenics, you have to be able to move they system as one and transfer forces across multiple joints. Essentially, calisthenics is a more complete approach to training movement.
With calisthenics, you have to think about how to transfer force throughout the kinetic chain just like you do in running. It’s no different.
If you look at general athletic movement; people who can move well, get injured less. Their systems are more efficient, and they can learn to move in new ways. They have good body awareness. Wind it all the way back to what we should be able to do as humans, having a full range of movement squat and be able to sit on our heels. It’s an ability we’re losing in western culture.
What we’re interested in from a movement perspective is that we want to maintain some of our natural ability to move. For high quality movement, we need mobility, stability and strength. When you go running and you have a system that has these components, your running is going to be more efficient and effective – you’re going to run faster, not get injured and you might be able to get more adaptation out of certain training phases. What calisthenics brings to this is that you have to respect mobility, stability and strength.
If we take our calisthenics movements for the lower body like the pistol squat, you can work backwards and forwards in the sagittal plane, in the same movement you’re going to run in, and it’s going to help you control your knee position. You can also try shrimp squats or basics like bodyweight squats and lunges in different patterns and planes of movement to build strength through these ranges to help you move better and improve your running.
Move up the body, we start to also think about the importance of the pillar. That is the musculature that supports the spine and pelvis, and provides foundation stability for the whole system. If you can keep your spine and pelvis stable, it means you can be more efficient with how you produce force and transfer it through your movement system, and therefore improve your running performance. This is where things like the handstand come in. You can’t do a handstand unless you have good range of movement and you can link stability through from your shoulder to your pelvis.
Beyond movement, calisthenics provides a focus on a tangible goal.
If you set a challenge to do five pistol squats back to back on each leg for example, that gives you a tangible outcome and a reason to think about the progressions you might need to work on. For example, improving ankle dorsiflexion (range in your ankles), stabilising your knees, getting your hips stronger.
We also believe strongly in mental wellbeing benefits of calisthenics and you can read more about it in our blog ‘Can calisthenics improve your mental health?’.
A strength session doesn’t need to be an hour or more. You don’t have to dedicate a big block of time. Trying to go from no strength and conditioning programme to trying to do an hour three times a week is unrealistic for most people. It just won’t happen. We talk about having movement snacks during the day; hang from a bar, sit in a deep squat for five minutes, play with some hand balancing positions with the kids because they think it’s fun. Pick a couple of things that tick a lot of boxes and get out and enjoy your run!
Watch the full interview with Garmin Ambassador, Martin Yelling
Links to resources mentioned in the video interview:
The School of Calisthenics Lower Body Foundations Training Programme – it’s a structured, correctional style programme focussing on regaining full range movement in the foundation movement patters we should have for a squat and multi-directional lunge.
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