Following on from a previous post on How I Cope with Injury, here we discuss why you should improve your strength and ways to do it with some simple exercises that you can do in the comfort of your own home.

Sarcopenia – sarco what?

Sarcopenia…do you know what that is? I didn’t either until I googled it! According to Wikipedia, it is a type of muscle loss (muscle atrophy) that occurs with ageing and/or immobility. Which basically means we’re all going to ‘suffer’ from it (be affected by it?) just by getting older. Combine that with sitting at a desk all day (aka immobility) and it’s clear to see that beyond the age of 30, we appear to be doomed.

BUT – if you read further down the Wiki entry – a healthy diet and exercise remain the interventions of choice to fight against the sarcopenia onslaught, and presumably any sort of decline in muscle mass, whereas there are no known medications to counter this ‘condition’. Hurrah for exercise, let’s all go running then…end of story. Or is it?

The problem with ‘just going running’, especially as we get older, is that due to the aforementioned sarcopenia and the ageing process in general, our muscles have already wasted away a bit. And so running may become painful, we’ll get injured and we’ll stop running and the sarcopenia will march on unabated. It’s a sort of vicious circle.

So what’s to do if you do get injured or you’re not actually injured but it all just hurts? You may be advised to rest or rein in your training a bit which may sound like good advice, and generally the pain will subside with some TLC. But what happens if you rest for a certain amount of time and then start running again? Well to quote Einstein “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. So resuming running without changing anything is not ideal (maybe “insanity” is a bit harsh!).

Perhaps a more upbeat Einstein quote is “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change”. So changing what you do is the answer to breaking the injury – rest (treatment) – injury – rest (treatment) cycle. That’s where running-specific strength exercises come in. You may well be thinking “I’m strong, I’m fit, I’ve been running for years and there’s no need to do any conditioning, it’s just a bit of a [insert body part] twinge”.

Are you constantly in the run-injury-rest cycle? Are you really as strong as you were? Could you still bench press as much as you used to in your twenties? Maybe, maybe not but there’s a fair chance that unfortunately you can’t. Don’t just wait until you are injured to start exercising – after all, preventative maintenance is always better than curative maintenance (repair). With focussed exercises, muscles, ligaments and tendons can be strengthened and improved (apologies to all you medical people, I’m not sure of the correct terms, but hopefully you get the message!) making your running experience much less painful and much more enjoyable.

Which brings me neatly to the usual disclaimer which applies once again: I’m not medically trained and I am sharing this with you purely as information about run-specific exercises from a credible source – do your own research etc and listen to your own body! Now if only I could listen to my own advice…

Strength for Runners Exercises

These very useful strength for runners exercise sheets appeared in my Instagram feed recently – they are from Align Body Clinic in Bath and full credit must be given to them. I haven’t personally used their services but I know people who have, with good results. Please do consider them if you are searching for a treatment professional.