Not long ago I started reading a book by Michael Boyle, called ‘Functional Training for Sports’, a great book if you are into fitness, especially functional strength. Definitely recommend giving it a read! The main take away for me from the book was how ineffective my training for running has been throughout the years.
Now I am no long-distance runner, I mean my body is definitely not designed for endurance events, however I have run a couple of half marathons and normally run around 20km weekly. Obviously, this can fluctuate if I’m training for a run. My training in the past has been, getting out and running and that’s it. Just continuous plodding- and I definitely do plod, I am by no means fast! Although I knew my training could be better I didn’t actually realise I was probably running myself to become even slower!
I have now turned my focus to doing more strength training and although I do still run, I will rarely run over 10k and do not have any plans in the near future to run any long distance events. I do still do some continuous training, mostly at 5am, so I just get up and run and do not think of very much. I find this more of a mental preparation for the day rather than a really effective workout.
I have now introduced sprint sessions and stair sprints into my morning running sessions, which initially I found really tough but I can totally feel it in my body, even in my abs, which I do not get when I’m just plodding around Dubai Marina. I can also feel myself getting fitter, I now can get to 8 sprints rather than 5 before thinking I’m going to die! Slight exaggeration, but you know what I mean!
In addition to changing up my running training, I have started doing strength sessions that focus mainly on my legs, more specifically single leg exercises. As is pointed out in ‘Functional Training for Sports’, you spend the majority of your time running on a single leg, therefore why would be train by doing exercises on 2 legs. It’s not sports specific and is not effective.
A few examples of my favourite single leg exercises.
Bulgarian split squat- this is probably my favourite one. I can feel this working and I definitely think it really focuses on your glutes, in addition to quads, hamstrings, but especially when I do weighted ones I can really feel it in my glutes the next day.
Pistol squats- these are pretty tough, I usually do them using a KO8 which offers more support and enables me to keep my form when doing them. I have used this with some of my clients too, which really boosts their confidence as they would not be able to do them without the KO8. It’s my new favourite toy! I will probably write a post just on how great it is as I really think they are amazing.
Walking lunges, with weights or without
Reverse lunges- lots of variations for these, lately I have been doing these starting off a step and stepping down off it.
Single leg press- this is tough but again I find it a really effective exercise
Jumping lunges- anything really that is plyometric, I am a big fan of. Increases the intensity of your workout and can add a bit of cardio, whilst developing your explosive strength. Particularly good for a runner in those final stretches of a race!
I can definitely feel a difference after implementing single leg exercises. It targets so many other muscles which are activated to stabilise your body when performing the movement, which is another reason why they are so effective. In addition to this, it will highlight your imbalances (you always have one side stronger than the other) and help you even them out, which is excellent for injury prevention.
So try adding some single leg exercises to your exercise programme, see if you can feel a difference 🙂