May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine

Outside magazine, February 1999

Be the stone, not the stick

And While
You're At It ...
  • Spend an equal amount of time at the track running in both directions, lest your legs develop unevenly from tilting to the inside. Ditto on a road that slopes dramatically at the shoulders.
  • When buying running shoes, look for a shop with a treadmill set up for testing your prospective purchase.
  • Dress for weather that's 20 degrees warmer than the actual temperature.
  • Run barefoot on grass or a clean beach for 10 minutes a week to strengthen the tiny muscles in your feet and ankles. Modern running shoes provide so much support that your feet can actually weaken from wearing them.

The appealing thing about being a runner, you figure, is that you don't have to worry about your upper body. After all, you hardly use it — and if you hit the weights you'll bulk up like the governor of Minnesota, right?

Wrong, wrong, and wrong.

First of all, becoming huge is of little concern if you've been on Harvey Newton's strength-training program because, as he pointed out back in October, strength and bulk are not one and the same. And even if you have your own routine, the average runner is in no danger of waking up one day looking like one of those grimacing, glistening mountains of muscle in the bodybuilding mags. Second, despite the emaciated appearance of the sport's role models — those world-class stick figures who dominate the big marathons — they actually have burly arms in proportion to their bodies.

In the Gym

So what's the ambitious runner to do? One hint: It doesn't involve holding weights while you jog. This practice will only wreck your form by causing your arm muscles to tighten; though they should be strong, they should also be loose. No, the ultimate exercise to fill the gaps in a runner's strength program is the vaunted dip. The exercise (shown below), which vaguely mimics the motion of your arms when you run, builds your pectorals, shoulders, and triceps and quickens your arm swing, thus making you more efficient. Every third day you can trade dips for triceps pushdowns or biceps curls, which target many of the same muscles, though not the shoulders quite as effectively.

As for your legs, because running doesn't fully contract all the important muscles, they'll need some attention beyond what you give them while pounding the pavement. So in addition to the one lower-body exercise Newton has you doing — either squats or leg presses — add hamstring curls to your routine. One more weight-room note: If you choose the squat for your first drill, as a runner you should only lower yourself half as far as normal, because the combination of all that mileage and weight-lifting will fatigue your leg muscles too quickly.

On the Run

For your cardio workouts, simply follow Dave Scott's maintenance strategy for weight-bearing exercise. Despite how seriously he takes this stuff, he understands as well as anyone that running endlessly can be, well, boring. Indeed, he's forever looking for ways to vary his routine. And, shock of shocks, he swears there's nothing like competition to keep an athlete motivated, regardless of whether you aspire to be a six-time Ironman winner. In practical terms, it forces you back into the periodization schedule and then, after said event, rewards you with the justification to back off and take up maintenance again. "If the athletes I coach have a 10k coming up, they unconsciously gear up for their best physical and psychological performance," says Scott. "But anything can work as a goal — even a backpacking trip."

The most devoted runner, however, will have times when he'll simply want to stop midstride and go for a ride or a swim. Great idea, so long as you don't give it up for longer than a week. "You can't just keep going without some kind of break or the routine becomes overwhelming, even for Dave Scott," says the man himself. "I've never coached an athlete and expected him to go through an entire training schedule without taking a three-day break every three weeks or so. Nobody's that robotic."

T H E   C R U X   M O V E

The Dip
Grasping bars that are parallel and spaced shoulder-width apart, press your body up until your arms are straight but not locked. Keeping your elbows close to your sides, slowly lower yourself until your upper arms are parallel to the ground — no farther. Do three sets of up to eight repetitions.

Photograph by Doug Merriam

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