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Monday, December 17, 2007

Find Thy Limiting Factor


photo by onelove69

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In the beginning of a training program, physical changes come quickly. Your body adapts at the fastest rate that you will ever see in the first six months of a training program. After that the rate of change begins to slow down as your body becomes accustomed to your new lifestyle. You can continue to improve for a long time, in the case of certain adaptations like aerobic capacity, for many years, but at some point you must become smarter about your training.

Once you have a foundation of consistency and adequate intensity, over time, progression will become more difficult. You must work on your limiting factor. You can get complicated in trying to determine what is holding you back, or you can do it the simple way: Figure out what you hate doing the most. Nine times out of ten, the thing that you hate doing the most is holding you back from further improvement.

You Squat Like a Girl...A Weak One!

So, using myself as a lab rat, I decided to see test that hypothesis. I run lots of miles weekly in order to train for ultra distance running events, but I also strength train as a form of cross training. I decided to test my strength levels on a few key lifts and compare them to other guys at my weight and level of training. I don't consider myself an advanced lifter, by any means, but I have been lifting weights seriously for several years and consider myself squarely in the middle of the "intermediate" category. To make a long story short, I fell pretty much in the intermediate category on all lifts...with one glaring exception, the squat. Now, I'm aware that lots of low-intensity running negatively effects leg strength so, it wasn't altogether a shock to see that when compared to other guys at my weight, I have the leg strength somewhere between the level of your grandmother and a 12 year old girl. And I should mention that I HATE SQUATS. Why? Because I suck at them, or at least I always thought I did. Now, my speculated squat suckage was confirmed.

For the last several months, I've forced myself to do squats at every strength session, with the goal of adding weight each time, even if only a little, and my strength has continued to increase. After 2 months of hard work, I think I'm approaching the leg strength level of a 14 year old girl. Woo Hoo! And the more I do them, the less I'm hating them.

While there isn't much carryover from the strength training to performance, or endurance, in my runs, I have noticed that my legs seem to handle the beating of the long runs a little better. Aches and pains in the smaller leg muscles, like the hip flexors and adductors, have all but disappeared. Coincidence? I really don't think so. Anecdotal evidence suggests that by strengthening the small muscles that oppose the strong running-related muscles, I've decreased the propensity for injury and decreased the discomfort on long runs. That translates indirectly into me running further which is definitely a goal.

The moral of the story is: Work on your weakest link, no matter how much you hate it.

OK, enough for today, I think I need to find some other exercise to hate.

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