Woolrich, who is also an award-winning personal trainer at Virgin Active South Africa, has five key reasons to use your health club to build towards an optimal performance.
Research shows that strength work twice a week is highly beneficial for a runner - especially if you focus on the eccentric (or lengthening) phase to improve your ability to withstand the fatigue in the legs which is often created by downhills. One way to do this is to slow down the squat and really stretch the quadriceps. Another convenient way is to join a Virgin Active Grid class which gives you a high intensity, six-move workout; push, pull, lunge, bend, twist and squat.
As a runner, you’re always moving in a straight line, neglecting lateral movement and the muscles that stabilise you. So include the glute medius and adductors, in particular, in every strength workout even if only for a short period. This will help teach your body to engage these muscles while you are running and thereby keep your form and technique for much longer. Pilates or Yoga classes are really good ways to improve stabilisation.
Swimming and cycling are great options to achieve good cardiovascular stimulus while allowing the legs to have a break from the impact of consecutive days of running. This is especially important if you have any injury niggles. The low impact work keeps your fitness levels up while allowing for recovery before race day.
The treadmill should be used to focus on speed work. High intensity bouts punctuated by equally or slightly longer recovery times and then finish with some solid strength work on an increased gradient.
The dark and cold winter hours, bad weather, uneven road surfaces, inconsiderate drivers – these are all factors which can dissuade you from training or make it an unsafe and unpleasant experience. The health club is a safe and consistent option when you don’t feel like pacing the streets. This element of security is especially important in the final weeks leading up to the race when the last thing you want is a stumble on a loose piece of paving or catching a cold.