Q: I’d like to incorporate some strength training into my cross country training and include some on my runs. Is this a sensible option and would it be as effective as doing it in the gym?
Jo Anderson, by email
PT and barefoot running expert, theaccumulator.net
A: There’s absolutely no reason why you can’t get a very effective workout with nothing but your own body weight.
In fact there are many exercises you can do which will have a direct effect on improving your running so you really get the best from your workouts. The two key principles I stick to with body weight training are: a) to move as much of the body as possible, therefore firing multiple muscles at once or in sequence and b) to make the exercises or movements specific to your goals. For instance, if you are training for a race and need to improve your speed and agility off-road, then work with single leg movements; plyometric (jumping); and exercises that work to strengthen and rotate your core. I therefore recommend exercises such as, single leg squats, backward lunges, jump squats, lunge jump, half-turn jumps, planks and bicycle crunches.
These exercises will make you more agile off-road as you have to manoeuvre your body around or over obstacles like trees, puddles and roots. Another good way to get a great bodyweight session in outside is to plan your run so you pass a playground. These places can open up a myriad of possibilities for bodyweight exercise as there are often complex climbing frames and other apparatus that you can use to push against, pull from, jump over or even crawl under.
However it’s probably best to pick a time when there are no kids about to spoil your fun (or theirs!). You could even pack a TRX® with you and strap this onto climbing frames and away from the playground, fences or trees. You can then add more strengthening exercises into your run and controlled or uncontrolled intervals.