Strength Training

Contrary to popular folklore, weight training and running don't work against each other in building a faster, fitter body. I bring this up because: A) I've been getting into the gym and: B) someday I think I'll write a longish article for older runners.

In my case, I lost a tremendous amount of muscle when I was forced to take time off from exercising. The gout attacks didn't stop just the running, but pretty much all activity. Feet, knees, elbows, wrists, and fingers were all affected, usually two or three joints at a time.

So, I have headed back into the gym to rebuild the mass I lost. I'm not doing anything fancy. For the chest, bench presses and incline presses. For arms, curls, pull-ups, tricep extensions. For the back, upright rows and lat pull-downs. Legs, leg press. Where possible, I use free weights, mostly dumbells, and work the weaker side to exhaustion. Gradually, the sides are coming into balance.

The legs are where I went to get some help and hired a wonderful young lady named Sophia. Our goal hasn't been to get me driving the maximum possible weight. Instead, I've worked with weights much lower than I could so the proper technique gets built into the muscle memory.

We started with a series of light movement exercises, moved to dead lifts, then squats, and now cleans.

With the deadlifts and the squats, the initial hip inflexibility limited the depth of the exercise. by the second week though, I was able to drop past a 90 degree angle at the knee (remember, low weights!) while holding good form.

Cleans (where you lift the barbell, 'pop' it up at the midsection, and drop your shoulders under the bar before continuing to stand) have been comical. Fortunately, Sophie has been patient while I get past the over-thinking. It's coming along.

The upside of the weight work is that the leg strength I lost is returning, and doing so fairly quickly. The downside is the weight I'm gaining as the mass comes back. As I ramp my mileage (and that should go getter with additional muscle), I expect to burn down some of my accumulated fat. By most standards, I'm pretty skinny. By runner standards, I've got some work to do.

So far, the project is a success. I skipping a lift day today though, as the weather is much nicer than we could hope for in late January. I'm going to a run on one of my old hilly courses. That will be the test for how well the lifting is going.

Run gently, friends.