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Sunday, October 30, 2011


 My son, Parker, once asked me some time ago 'why do runners look old in the face and neck but the legs look young?' I went on to explain the reason and the myth that runners STILL believe strength training will slow them down. I won't  go off script on how runners can build muscle to improve efficiency but I will explain to you why runners get that
 emaciated look in the face, chest and arms.

No matter what level of runner you are, casual or competitive, one thing that holds true is that you burn glycogen!: the fuel that provides muscle energy. Fat plays a role too, but in this scenario, glycogen is a key player. When you run, you burn glycogen and the next day the body is able to replenish its glycogen stores. It's called the glycogen overshoot phenomenon. But when the running program does not allow for recovery those glycogen stores get depleted. In fact, it takes about 3-4 days to totally deplete this warehouse of fuel.

So its your 4th consecutive day of running and the glycogen 'gas tank' is on 'E'; the muscles now are looking for another form of glycogen. So the body cleverly strips a couple of amino acids off a protein and 'ta daaa!!' you have a 'knock off'  glycogen!  And where do you think those amino acids are taken from? guessed it: the muscles of the face, chest, and arms!

If this sounds like you, the simple strategy is to give the body time to restore its glycogen by taking a day or two off from running.  And do some strength training. This even applies to when you are preparing for competition. Yes, fat burns when you run but it burns even 'hotter' when you add muscle resistance to your fitness program. ALL the runners that have come through BSI will attest to the benefits of proper strength and conditioning for improved running performance.

Below are some suggestions for maintaining performance muscle. I will share just two.

  • THE CLASSIC PUSH-UP. YES!  'Old'  form suggested you get the chest one fist away from floor. I am not in favor of this because it can irritate the front of the shoulder.
  1.  Just go down far enough that your shoulder does NOT go past the bend in your elbow.
  2.  HOW MANY?  5-10 reps for 2 sets. Increase the reps and sets as you get stronger.  if you have not done them in a while keep the reps low. You veterans should have a good idea of how many you can rep out!. You don't have to do them all the time, but be consistent. Set your own bench mark. Then hit that bench mark on a consistent basis and add accordingly.
  3.  ALTERNATIVE: Use the wall if you have issues getting up/down off the floor. Simply stand just far away from a wall so the body is approximately at a 45 degree angle. This works great using a stability ball also.
  • SITTING FLIES: This technique is an excellent technique for postural strength (which originates not just from abdominals but the pelvic muscle floor and entire back). 
  1. Grab two dumbbells. No more than 10 pounds. One for each hand. Sit on the floor. Legs crossed. Upper body at 45 degree angle;just leaning back enough to fell abs reflexively contract.
  2.  Take dumbbells and do the flies. Think of 'hugging'  a tree.   Chest should be up and out with elbows level with arm pits and elbows at 90 degree bend. Now move those weights toward each other.
  3.  HOW MANY? 5-10 reps for 2 sets. This is an excellent technique for postural stamina that runners lack. In fact, hamstring problems can stem from poor upper torso strength! We in fact treat the hamstring from the shoulders down! As you get stronger, challenge yourself by raising legs off floor.
Now you know why some runners look 'emaciated' and more importantly how to prevent it. Young runners especially can prevent this. I am still surprised though at the number of runners who don't use skin protection against the elements. There are so many good natural ones out there that can prevent damage and skin cancers. More importantly give yourself time to recover so the glycogen can replenish itself. 

Lets face it (no pun intended), we train because we like the positive side effects: It makes us look good! The feeling we get knowing we are prolonging our quality of life is an added bonus! So why not  manage the effects and rigors of running so we have a nice 'mug' to compliment that killer physique!?

"In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing to do"
-Theodore Roosevelt


  1. This is a nice post. I am really like this post. Health is wealth. After reading you post I know lots of info about body fitness. It's help me a lot. Thanks for posting
    How to Build Muscles