Every Tuesday and Thursday I partake in a particularly painful but totally awesome class at New York Sports Club (NYSC) called Total Body Conditioning (TBC) with Andrew. I started going in March of last year, then took a serious hiatus while I trained for last year's half-marathon and returned in October, usually going both days each week. I mention that the class is with Andrew because he is just the best instructor - on days when he's sick (which is rare, thank goodness!), the whole class grumbles and some even leave, thinking the substitute will not be nearly as good as Andrew. I usually stay, figuring hey, at least I'll get some weights in, but the instructor is never as ass-kicking as Andrew. Andrew is also one of the fittest people I've ever seen - he's probably in his 40s, and he is fitter than any 20-something in that class!
The class is made up of 50 minutes of strength, weight training and cardio, and it will seriously kick your butt - literally, the most painful part of my body today (and most post-TBC days) is my butt. I'll try to post a few of the regular workouts we do, but what makes this class so great is that he changes it every time. Sure, we'll always do some abs, work the legs, do push-ups (which he fondly calls "Michels" since Michel, one of the regulars, hates push-ups so much), use the body bar and dumbbells at some point, and end with some stretching, but he does tend to throw in something totally impossible-looking in each class. I go to this class with two of my roommates, and as soon as we see that impossible-looking thing, we scoff, call Andrew crazy, then actually give it a try. Usually, it is very hard, but not impossible. He's made the class extra hard for the new year and surprises us with something new in every class. I've gotten to the point where I'm not usually sore after runs (even long ones), but I'm almost always sore after this class - today it's my shoulders, butt and lower back, but he makes sure not to make my arms, quads, calves, or hamstrings feel left out most of the time!
I'm still researching and figuring out what, exactly, the benefits that weight and strength training bring to running, but I know that there are some and that weight and strength training is an excellent complement to running! For starters, there's your core. You need a strong core for running - the muscles in your core support your trunk and hips and give you a strong base for running. A strong core helps you maintain your alignment and helps with balance and coordination. Now I can't say that I am the most devoted core-worker-outer, but I try to do ab exercises and planks a few times a week. I've even gone to TBC just to get an ab workout before I had to get into work early! I've thought about getting a balance ball to sit on at work instead of using a proper chair, but somehow I just don't think my office would go for that...
I own a couple of Pilates DVDs and I think I will start incorporating them into my workouts more, plus NYSC offers Pilates and yoga classes too. I hear yoga is a fantastic complement to running, and really helps with your breathing.
If you have any core exercises that you swear by, leave them below! I would love to see the ways you strengthen your core and improve your running - I definitely still need to strengthen my core and improve my running!