Cross Training - Gym

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What to do at the gym to help your running

This article is owned by fetcheveryone

Why go to the gym at all?
If you're a runner, why do you need to visit the gym at all? Surely the open road, the raw outdoors, are part of the attraction of running. However, the gym can be a useful place to visit. It never rains in the gym. The gym isn't full of the general public wondering why you're trying to get past them. There are no cars driving too fast past you in the gym.
Many runners use the gym for their speed sessions. On a treadmill, you can set your distance, speed, time, incline, and they are measured accurately. If you're suffering from an injury or a niggle, cross training in the gym might be just the thing to help you keep up fitness while avoiding the strain of running on the open road. Or sometimes it just makes a change.
What equipment will you find in a gym?
In my gym there are numerous machines for cardio-vascular training.
-Elliptical cross-trainer
-Exercise bike
-Rowing machine
-Step Machine
Then there are scary looking weight machines.
It's important that you don't use machines wrongly, you might injure yourself, so ASK! The gym will have a personal trainer who can advise you on what training you should do to achieve your goals.
What sort of weight training should you do?
From my decade spent posing in the gym before I discovered running,these are the excercises I would still do to aid my running. The gym staff are there to work (sometimes contrary to appearances) so before using any equipment ask them to demonstrate how to set it up safely and how to use it without causing yourself injury :-
Legs - do not do any major thigh work (heavy squats,leg presses) as these will only increase the bulk of your thigh muscles and tighten your hamstrings. Useful for a sprinter, useless for the rest of us. Ladies who wish to tighten their posteriors may well benefit from doing some light squats, either while holding light dumbells or using smaller weights on a Smith machine.
You can increase calf strength and possibly help prevent shin splints (though I'm not promoting a miracle cure) by doing toe-raises, either on a leg press or preferably on a "sled" type machine. This beast looks like a seat with handles and a stack of weights next to it. Start with a light weight and sit up straight on the seat, placing your feet shoulder width apart on the board in front of you. Now shuffle your feet down the board so that only your toes are on the board (as if you were preparing for a high dive). Press your toes down and you will move backwards and feel the stretch ,then press your heel down to release. Do a few sets of 8 - 12 reps depending how heavy you go.
Abs and core trunk - all the old faves like crunches , sit ups and Swiss ball work will help with posture and so will help with running technique.
Pecs - mine bounce all over the place when I run. Building a large chest doesn't help when distance running!
Lats - I've found that the arm action while running emphasises my lat size after a run. If you do want to increase lat size (the large muscles on either side of your spine when looking at your back) and consequently make your waist look smaller, the absolute best way is to do chin-ups on a high bar. Just hang from the bar and pull yourself up as many times as you can before you fall off. If you can't do these, then there are lat pulldown machines which enable you to do the same excercise while pulling less than your own bodyweight.
Arms - I can't see any benefit to runners in having huge biceps/triceps. If you do want an increase in size, you can't beat preacher bench curls for biceps and good old parallel bar dips for triceps.Try doing dips while wearing a weighted belt if you really want to know what pain feels like. Ask the gym staff!
Shoulders - if you get stiff shoulders while running they may benefit from some light training. Use a pair of light dumbells and do a giant set of side raises / front raises / overhead presses / shrugs. This will work all of the shoulder muscles without building bulk. Before I run I always warm up my rotator cuffs to prevent stiffness, I did the same routine before shoulder work in the gym. I'll try and explain :-)
Excercise 1 = Stand with your arms bent at 90 degrees / press your elbows against your sides so that you look like Peter Crouch at the start of his robot dance / open you arms out one at a time / you should feel the stretch at the front of your shoulder / do 10 per arm.
Excercise 2 = Stand with your arms above your head / bend your elbow to 90 degess as if you're doing the "Y" from the YMCA dance (you may need to ask your mum depending on your age !) with your palms facing forwards / keeping arms at 90 degrees rotate your shoulders forwards so that your palms face the floor and then face behind you / then rotate your shoulder back up to the starting position.
Which machines should you use?
If you want to do heavy work (bench presses / squats) and don't have a training partner to spot for you look for the Smith machine which enables you to push more weight more safely.
Using correct form is more important than how much weight you use. Free weights (dumbells / barbells) rather than machines promote good form and build your core muscles. Don't be afraid of the free weights - ask how to use them. There are a multitude of excercises you can do with a barbell and a pair of dumbells.
***edit by prop forward***
the above paragraph is a contridiction, I totally agree that correct form is more important than adding extra weight, however, if this is the case NEVER EVER EVER use a smith machine, it forces you to lift in a completely un-natural, fixed plane of movement and does not allow for good form. Use free weights at a sensible level and you will benefit immensely
Example sessions:
Some gyms run classes which can help with stamina, or as substitute exercise if you are injured - spinning classes (indoor cycling) can be very useful if you can't run for some reason, but are able to ride a bike. These are usually about 30-40 mins of varied 'cycling', some 'uphill' (high resistance) and some lower resistance sprinting - or 'spinning.' These have proved invaluable to me when injury prevented me running. Half an hour of this will burn about 300 calories, and improves your cycling fitness as well!
Non-cardiovascular sessions are good too, such as pilates, yoga, Swiss ball and Body Balance as they can help improve all round strength and flexibility. This is important for maintaining a good posture and will help prevent injuries. They also give you some alternative stretches that you can do after running - useful if you are getting bored with the usual stretches or fancy something different.

Recent Updates User Comments
Aug 2006 SuperCaz Added non-cardiovascular gym sessions
Jul 2006 Schnecke Added note about spinning classes, under 'Example sessions.'
Jul 2006 fatboy When i get an injury i usualy use the Cross trainer, i find i can get my heart rate high and it keep the legs and arm strong, so when im ready to back out on the road its not so much of a shock to the body. I run 3 times a week and use the gym 3 times a week, i find it helps with my running a lot, everyone has different ideas, what work for one might not work for another. You don't know unless you try. I reccomend the gym as well as road running. Go on give it a go........
Jul 2006 Killerkane added step machine
Jul 2006 PamB
Jul 2006 fetcheveryone Article created
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