Gotta Run: Upcoming races, strength training and importance of recovery

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 20, 2016

We are headed into the busiest part of the spring racing season. March 26 has a brand new one called the Mt. Hope Church 5K Run for Missions. The race will be held at Salisbury Community Park and will follow the paved greenway around the lake and the gravel road down to the lake. This course has been used multiple times before and always has good footing. The 5K starts at 9 a.m. and the half-mile fun run for kids 10 and under follows at 10 a.m. Walkers are welcome.

The next race on the local calendar is the UMW Run for Missions 5K, this time moving to Sunday afternoon, April 3. A few very cold races with a little snow and ice in early March made the Methodist women finalize the move to April. Start time is 2 p.m. for the 5K, and the fun run starts at 2:45 p.m., both on the streets around City Park. This race uses an unusual course that was first established many years ago for a festival at City Park. Runners and walkers will loop the lake three times and spectators get to see them on each lap. This is the only race of this type in our area.

There is more information on both these races and the new beginning runners class at

Including regular strength training along with your running can likely play a big part in improving race times. While most runners aren’t interested in heavy duty weight lifting, there is certainly a benefit from adding at least some body weight exercises. Since the current running and racing group in our area is strongly influenced by runners over 40 year of age, strength training can also significantly slow down the aging process. Regular running helps with cardiovascular fitness, so why not do all you can to maintain your strength and balance as well?

Most of my favorite strength training exercises can be done at home with very little equipment. If you don’t have a gym membership or even if you do, the following is a proven list for runners. Simple lunges and squats are great for strengthening the glutes, quads and hamstrings. All of these muscle groups are often forgotten by regular runners. Try a wall sit and see how long you can hold yourself in place while squatting with your back against the wall. It is a lot harder than it sounds, so try it and see if you can stay in place for a minute. If you can, you’re doing great!

Planks are great for your abs, back, hips, legs and arms. Start with the basic plank, similar to a pushup pose, but this time keeping the elbows and lower arms locked in place on the floor or mat. It is the quickest way to get sore in a hurry. I find the soreness is likely to start in the chest area. You can move up to side planks and alternate planks. While you are at it, mix in a few pushups, too. 

Doing the lunges, squats, wall sit, planks and pushups can add strength quickly. Another of my favorites is the Seven Minute Workout. This is another total body workout using only a chair, a wall and your body weight. It includes the above exercises plus jumping jacks, crunches, step ups and triceps dips using the chair and 10 second rest periods. While again this might sound easy, give it a shot and see what you think. You can find a timed one at

Some may want to take advantage of the weight machines and free weights at your gym. If you aren’t used to doing your strength workouts in this way, get some help from the trainers initially to properly balance your workout. Most runners won’t get the best results by doing low weight reps lots of times.  Be careful when doing lower body lifting because you’ll have to balance the recovery with your important runs of the week.

For best results, perform some strength exercises two or three days a week and stay away from consecutive days. Your muscles need at least 48 hours to recover from a good strength session, just the same as not running hard on two straight days. There is nothing wrong with sticking with some variation of these exercises or gym lifting year round. You may want to skip a session or two before important races so that your muscles are fresh come race time.

Speaking of recovery, I don’t mean complete inactivity. But it does mean cutting back on pace and mileage for a few days or even a week or two. Consider substituting some of your running with alternate activities like cycling, swimming, group classes or even yoga.

What has worked best for me over the years is to take a few recovery periods each year. In my heavy marathon years, I usually tried to take a recovery period after a successful marathon or other long race. Running long every weekend year after year will eventually wear you down mentally. So find some new running routes and consider running your favorite routes in the reverse direction.

The proper mix of running, strength training and recovery should make the runner want to go out the door for his or her next training run or toe the start line for the next race. Mix things up, keep them fresh and enjoy your running!

David Freeze is a nationally certified running coach and president of the Salisbury Rowan Runners. Contact him at Learn more at