Strength and Conditioning

Published 2nd November 2020 by mymo

Here at mymo, we are so lucky to have qualified strength and conditioning advice at hand through Sophie Marr Physiotherapy. Sophie provides physio-led structured videos for runners of all abilities as part of our app service at mymo for subscribers.  

So how much strength training are you doing? Are you someone who dedicates focused S&C sessions to your training every week? Do you attend classes? Do you build training into your week that gets you stronger as you run? Or be honest... Are you winging it?

You don’t always have to tackle strength work in the gym, either. Body weight workouts can have the same positive effects on your training as you get stronger and effectively bulletproof your body against injury… or at least that’s the idea! 

Getting it done

Runner and coach Anji Andrews swears by focused strength work away from running for herself and everyone she writes training plans for. For Anji, there are set workouts done with the help of a barbel and resistance bands done at home or in the gym depending on access to equipment. 

It’s something that has to be part of routine to avoid injury for Anji personally, something we like to call ‘prehab’, with a standard week including 20 minute workouts at least twice a week targeting core, legs and glutes with some upper body too. Anji’s go-to exercises are clams, squats, lunges, bridges, aleknas and planks. 

We know some runners aren’t naturally at home in the gym, nor do they feel the need to make extra time to work on their weaknesses.

Anji was amazed to learn that midlands runner and Puma athlete Johnny Cullen (now based in the Pyrenees), despite being known as a super strong cross country (and now mountain) runner rarely did what we’d see as bread and butter S&C work in the gym, despite being strong and fast on both the XC circuit and the road. 

Johnny (JC) started running in his early 30s and ran cross, track, and road in national competitions for Birchfield Harriers. After years of on-off injury he gave up competitive running aged 39. Then in 2015, a chance meeting with running legend and coach Ian Stewart changed his life. Aged 45, JC captained Worcestershire at this year’s Inter Counties XC Championships and finished first man home for his county. He is older than the parents of some of his team mates.

But how can you keep strong through ‘just’ running?

JC comments: “There’s an ace story about former world 5000m record holder Henry Rono you may have heard. When asked for training advice, he mentioned hitting “the hill” every week.

“Henry, what hill?” the interviewer replied.

“Any hill,” Henry said. 

Whatever level runner you are, hills are incredibly good for your mind, body and spirit. And if you’ve got work and family commitments, they’re time efficient too. 

Sure, if you’ve got bags of time for training go to a gym. Or do weights at home. But if you haven’t - and I don’t - beware swapping runs for gym sessions. It’s easy to get distracted from doing vital easy runs by the promise of quick-win gains from S&C. 

Instead, if you’re time-pressed then try combining the best results of a run and a strength session by hitting some local hills. 

You can do longer tempo-style hills, short sprint hills with a big recovery, or a mix of both. With 20 minutes warm up either side, you can be done and dusted in about an hour. 

As you may have guessed, I love hills. Big hills. Little hills. Ron Hill. 

I even moved to the Lickey Hills in Worcestershire, in case there was a national incline shortage. 

My dad was my first coach, and he swore by a weekly dose of long and sprint hills. Hills got me to peak fitness, knocking out sets of 200s on the track in 25/26 seconds.

Hills forged me as a cross country runner. They strengthened my muscles and fanned my fighting spirit. They made me fear no man (apart from my current coach Ian Stewart, that is.)

My training partner Mark Ince and I used to do a particularly brutal hill session on Saturday mornings in Cofton Park. Called “bench-to-bench”, it involves running between four and six hill reps on grass with about three minutes jog recovery. Each rep takes about two minutes, depending on how muddy and windy it is.  

Dear reader, pain doesn’t even begin to describe the experience.

If you can survive bench-to-bench, XC races feel almost easy. 

By rep two, your legs are pumping battery acid and you’ve got a hot green taste burning in your throat.

By rep three, your whole existence has come down to reaching the bench ahead before your knees buckle. 

By the last rep, you can see a thin corridor of white light ahead and hear angels sing above you.

Goddamnit, we loved those sessions. 

Hills have kept me sound in mind and body, and will hopefully keep me racing well for years to come.

To sum up, if you’ve not got the time for specific S&C work then remember Henry Rono’s words. 

Hit the hill every week. 

Any hill.

Believe me, you won’t regret it.”

To find out more about access to our at-home S&C videos with Sophie, follow our social media pages for up to date links and access via the mymo app. 


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