Training your mind is as important as training your body
As a runner for close to two decades now, I have spent the latter part of that time in India. I’ve not only witnessed the exponential growth in the number of runners firsthand, but seen the impact of this participation sport on the health and psychological mindset of the entire nation.
While I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the best runners in the world—who at times are neck and neck at the finish line—I still associate running with that personal ambition to push oneself as one redefines the limits of one’s potential. For most of us, running will always be the quest to get faster or run farther, within the confines of our ability. And therein lies the beauty of running. Thousands of runners with individual stories line up together to ‘raise the bar’ and, in the process, uncover strength they never knew they had. How can we not love this sport?
As a sports scientist, my job is to bring perspective to the opportunity, and roadmap the way to achieving your goals. At times, it’s through new training methodologies or diets, but very often it is by unleashing the power of the mind or testing new equipment. In fact, over 300 variables are looked at in the quest to improving performance by just one percent.
In addition, my extensive work as fitness and education consultant for Herbalife Nutrition has given me insights into how athletes and scientists seek to boost performance using organics and nutrition science.
I’m now going to debunk a few myths and outline three simple strength-training exercises that are guaranteed to improve your performance.
Champions Do Basics The Best learnt this during my days with international cricketers. We defined the basics and mastered them. For example, a batsman without a solid defiance will not bat long enough to score a century. Or, a spinner who can’t land five out of six leggies on the spot won’t get the chance to bowl his variations.
In running, people search for that elusive one percent performance gain. Truth is, there is larger potential for gain in mastering the other 99 percent. Are you sleeping eight to nine hours a night? Are you eating healthy, nutritious meals—no processed foods—and timeously? Are you getting in enough mileage on your feet? Are you doing race-specific speed work-outs? Is your strength workout tailored to your body and to your running ability? Are you hydrating well during the week?
If the answer to these questions is not a confident “Yes” then your solution for performance gains lies in those parameters. Don’t get distracted by technology or fads.
Strength Training Is Critical I’m going to break this down scientifically; because that’s the only way it makes sense and the best possible way to explain it. Most runners feel that since running is an endurance sport, their strength training needs to be endurance-oriented. By this, I mean they tend to deviate towards low-weight, high-rep programmes.
Here’s some science: if your 1RM (repetition maximum) bench press is 100 kg, you should be able to push out 30-50 reps at 50 percent, or 50 kg. If you focus on moving the 100 up (1RM), you will automatically see gains in muscle endurance. So, instead of focusing on low-weight, high-rep programmes that’ll cause you to fatigue before you can increase the weight, use a high-weight, low-rep programme that’s designed to improve your 1RM. The benefits will stun you.
Learning For Each Session when I work with pro athletes, I have one rule: each session needs to make you a better person or a better athlete. If you’re not following this, you could be in a rut—clocking in junk miles, as they say. So, while you’re out there running, you aren’t actually improving and a lack of structure in your programming is to blame.
Begin by journaling each running session (distance, pace, duration and time of run). When you’ve mastered this, add hours of sleep patterns and feel (post-run). Then, start planning sessions with purpose. Is this session going to build endurance, improve speed or increase strength? When you start mapping the outcome of each workout against a plan you draw up, you’ll know when you’re sitting in the comfort zone.
If you plan, you will push yourself, and these three exercises are designed to do just that. You can easily incorporate them into your existing fitness regime.
- High Knee Step-Up This is an oldie but a goodie. It activates the hip flexors and glute muscles (both primary movers in running). If body weight step-ups are easy, use dumbbells for a weighted version. Remember the 1RM rule: it applies here as well.
- The Plank This is a total core workout in one exercise that will also strengthen back musculature. For beginners, hold the plank on your elbows, and when you’re comfortable holding it for at least a minute, progress to your palms. I use training aids like Bosu balls and therabands for a more focused core workout.
- Backward Running I do this on a treadmill with a steep incline. This move develops the entire posterior chain (calf, hamstring, glutes and lower back), muscles that help you maintain good form and improve running economy. Start with five minutes of walking backwards. Once you’re attuned to the movement patterns, progress to a slow jog.
Remember, training smart is more important than training hard, and that can make all the difference.
I’ve been hearing a lot about holistic nutrition. What is it?
It’s a modern approach to a healthy diet and considers every aspect of the individual’s life before structuring a plan—hereditary conditions, lifestyle, training regime, detoxification, work stress etc. are considered. In fact, all these aspects are taken into account at Herbalife Nutrition when they develop their nutrition solutions.