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Jim Freim May 16, 2013 TWEET COMMENTS 0

Make Hard Runs Easy

Improve your strength-to-weight ratio

 

 

This article appeared in our June 2011 issue

If you increasingly find yourself slowing on hills and rugged terrain, it may not be attributable to just a loss in VO2max and lower max heart rate (see Master’s Voice, Issue 72, May 2011) but rather to a decrease in overall strength and, perhaps, weight gain. Insidiously, in 10 years an extra 10 pounds are on board. And the last time you did pushups was three administrations ago. As a coach, I estimate that 40 percent of most masters’ slowdown is due to their strength-to-weight ratio (SWR) heading south.

Unlike road runners, trail runners tackle all types of terrain. We tax quads pushing uphill, test agility flying downhill and catch our breath navigating the flat trail’s twists and turns, which all takes core and leg strength. Strength training improves agility and balance to avoid, jump over, jump on and duck under; reduces fatigue, aches and injuries; and results in faster recovery. Numerous studies also show greater strength yields greater endurance.

Mary Lou Morgan, 48, of Buena Vista, Colorado, an expert ultra trail runner and multiple finisher of Colorado’s Hardrock 100 (a tough course with over 66,000 feet of total elevation change), believes “strength workouts were key to finishing Hardrock.”

Core Strength Swr (Csswr)

The military and the original President Kennedy fitness tests have it right. For core strength, the old-fashioned pushup is still king, exercising the chest, back, shoulders, triceps and abs, five of the major muscle groups (check out online videos to view a proper pushup).

After a warm-up, how many pushups can you do with proper form? See the table below for your fitness rank. Dust off the scale hiding under the bed and weigh yourself. Then, calculate your baseline CSSWR following the example on page 46. A good target CSSWR is 4. You can gain strength by doing three workouts per week, and will maintain your ratio doing just two workouts per week.

I recommend that all masters trail runners have the goal of doing at least 40 pushups. For a greater challenge, do as many pushups as your age.

Charles Staley, a fitness coach in Las Vegas, offers 12 workouts to reach 40 pushups: “Perform sets of half the number of pushups you completed in the test, resting 60 seconds between sets until you’ve done 40. Each workout deduct five seconds from the rest interval.” For example, if you did 20 pushups in the test, the first workout is four sets of 10 pushups separated by 60 seconds.

Pushup Fitness Test

Men

Age: 40-49

Age: 50-59

Age: 60+

Excellent

39 or more

34 or more

29 or more

Good

30-39

25-34

20-29

Average

20-29

15-24

10-19

Poor

12-19

8-14

5-9

Very Poor

12 or fewer

8 or fewer

5 or fewer

 

Women

Age: 40-49

Age: 50-59

Age: 60+

Excellent

34 or more

29 or more

19 or more

Good

20-34

15-29

5-19

Average

8-19

6-14

3-4

Poor

3-7

2-5

1-2

Very Poor

3 or fewer

2 or fewer

1 or fewer

Core Strength Swr
(Csswr) Calculation

I use the inverse of the SWR since people relate better to whole numbers than fractions. Divide your weight by initial pushups test. For example, if, at 40, a masters runner weighed 160 pounds and could do 40 pushups, his CSSWR was 4. Now at age 50, his weight snuck up to 170 pounds and he can do 20 wheezing, gasping pushups for a CSSWR of 8.5. Part of his slowdown is the increase in the SWR. I have seen ratios below 3 and over 200. A CSSWR under 5 is good. Five to 8 is adequate. Over 8, be careful on your next trail run.

Leg SWR (LSWR)

Many masters assume that running up and down hills is all they need to do to strengthen their legs. Take leg strength to the next level by doing squats, which hit three major muscle groups—the quads, calves and glutes.

After a run or warm-up, do as many proper squats (chest up, weight on heels, quads parallel to floor at deepest point) as possible. Divide into your weight. Good LSWR values are below 2. Adequate is 3 to 4. Five to 6 middling. Seven and over—you are getting passed on the hills, right? Avoid stressing the knee; the lowest point should be quads parallel with the floor.

Establish a baseline value and re-measure your LSWR once a month. Determine how many squats will achieve a value of 2. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, work up to 80 squats three times per week. From your baseline value, add on one squat per session or three squats per week. A conservative approach avoids injuries.

For a detailed plan, Steven Speirs (aka the British Bulldog, www.runbulldogrun.com), an ultrarunner and writer, has developed innovative strength programs using your body weight. Find his squat program at www.twohundredsquats.com.

Body weight is the second factor affecting your SWR. Remember, your metabolism slows as you age. Bottom line—you need less calories. The formula is simple: lose weight by exercising more and/or eating fewer calories.

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