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Strength And Prehab
Walker said that one of the most common mistakes he sees is runners not having built up a strong enough power-speed component prior to their injury. They then get overzealous with the weight work as their focus shifts from true running sessions.
“In many cases these athletes didn’t have a base level of power and speed to work from, and therefore unrealistically embark on speed and power training too early in the healing process,” Walker said.
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While healing, you certainly don’t want to wind up with another subsequent injury. Walker said gains in power from strength training are more than possible, but that runners need to be patient and lay the groundwork first.
“Basic movement precedes higher level function, so focus on cleaning up things like bodyweight lunges, squats, and stepping before adding external loads or amplifying speed of movement,” Walker said. “By cleaning up these basics, your chances for enhanced speed and power gains improve in subsequent training blocks.”
Finally, maintaining flexibility and dedication to those “corrective exercises” is just as important as the other workouts. These will pay off dividends in avoiding injuries, potentially the same ones, in the future.
There are a variety of cross-training options, some better suited to specific workouts. The previously mentioned aqua-jogging is excellent, as it’s about as close to running as many can get (the anti-gravity treadmill is an exception). For easy days and longer workouts, going for effort in the pool, on the elliptical, or on the bike is pretty straightforward.
Though for some of those more power-speed centered workouts, moving to a machine that allows you to adjust the tension setting is a good idea. Walker is a fan of distance runners implementing sprints as short as 20 meters into their regular training, as this improves their base speed and translates upward as they move to their 800, mile, and longer repeats. Apply this same logic to your cross-training: think 30 seconds at nearly all-out intensity with adequate recovery, as that would parallel the shorter sprint work. By cranking the resistance up you’d also be able to mimic hill blasts.