Strength Training Survival Tactics

I am new to this whole ultra running thing, I’m even a little hesitant to call myself an ultra runner, yet. But I have learned one thing that I’m kind of loving. Apparently in ultra running (and maybe every other form of running?) there is an “off season”. A time to recoup from training plans, a time to run for fun or not at all, a time to eat an entire sheet cake because you’re a runner (maybe not a valid excuse, but I’d accept it) and a time to ramp up for the next onslaught of long training weeks, high mileage runs and “goal races”.

In the past I’ve never really proclaimed an off season and I probably haven’t exactly earned this off season but that doesn’t mean I’m not avoiding anything remotely similar to a training plan while inhaling cookies like they are going extinct. I kind of like it.

While I’m not running much this doesn’t mean I’ve become a lethargic couch potato (at least not every day). Instead of focusing on a specific training plan or weekly mileage goals I’m doing what I like to call “training for training”. Yup, that’s what I’ve decided to call this. Basically I’m running when I want to and trying to focus more on strength training, cross training and finding a manageable balance in my work/run/life.

Snowboarding at Steamboat - Morningside
tree boarding 100% counts as cross training! ask my legs!

This is awesome because I never feel like I am required to go for a run; however, it also kind of sucks because I hate counting reps in the gym. Hate it. I will forever be wimpy because counting reps bores me to death. Like I said this stint of “training for training” has only been going on for a few weeks but I have found a few ways to make the trips to the dreaded gym less traumatic and because I’m a blogger I have a pretty little piece of the internet to share these super insightful tips on…

Always Change It Up

Don’t force yourself to go to the gym every day to do the same stinking workout. It’ll get boring, you’ll hate the number 10 or 15 or whatever and eventually your muscles will get used to it. Instead find new ways to get your strength training in a few days a week. I’ve been leaning pretty heavily on Pinterest for my inspiration and am quick to pin any interesting workouts I find in my Feedly.

Layer Up & Get Outside

I’ve been on a mission to find some cross training that is actually useful for ultra running. I’m not saying swimming or cycling isn’t useful, I just want to make the most of every second I have when I’m sinking 15+ hours a week into training. This fancy “off season” concept is the perfect time to find that. Turns out skinning/splitboarding is a great place to start! If the avalanche conditions look favorable we head into the mountains – nothing like slide-hiking your way up a mountain to put your stabilizer muscles to work! If skinning isn’t an option even hiking in the snow or on rough/steep terrain is great for working on strength!

Bulter Gulch Trail - Backcountry Splitboarding SkinningTrail Running - Upper Mt Falcon

Take Someone With You

Lately I’ve been dragging Chris down to the tiny apartment gym with me. He is nearly as excited about the gym as I am! However, we’ve found a way to make it a little more fun. We’ll each head down with our own workout plan (either from Google, Pinterest or simple creativity). We’ll do one circuit of our own workout plan then trade cards and do the other person’s workout. Not only does it keep the workouts from getting boring it has us both creating challenging workouts because we want to make the other person suffer. We love each other like that.

Get Creative with Opportunities

Work on the 12th floor of your office building? Take the stairs. Get bored going in circles up the stairwell? Time yourself, take two stairs at a time or train yourself to take two stairs at a time on the way down. Have an office thermostat that gets confused and blows cold air for anything over 60 degrees? Do pushups and burpees when you get cold. Waiting for the microwave to nuke your lunch? Drop into a wall sit and stare at your food spinning in circles.

Not only will these random mini workouts get some strength training in without any counting and get your blood flowing so you’re more productive as your desk they are also sure to be conversation starts… In my defense, I do my pushups in a back room and only got caught doing wall sits on time, by the company president.

Bribe Yourself with PowerICE

Okay, so this may be the worst transition to a product review ever posted online but this has actually worked for us a few times, not joking. A few weeks ago (ironically, just as the entire country got way too many days of sub-zero temperatures) I received two boxes of PowerICE – a product with a new take on keeping hydration and electrolytes in check while keeping your core temperature down. Not the easiest product to test out during a winter freeze, but an awesome concept that will be extremely useful come July!

PowerICE - frozen hydration with electrolytes

PowerICE comes in a plastic tube that you freeze and eat frozen, a lot like an icy pop. We kind of have an obsession with icy pops, as in as soon as summer arrives we fill our freezer and suck sugar water out of a tube until our lip corners get cut. Its true. We might have a problem.

But, back to the point of PowerICE. So, its an icy pop, but better for you and actually beneficial for your performance and recovery. More than once in the past month we have seen the PowerICE in the freezer, thought about just snagging one and eventually talked ourselves down to the gym to use “product testing” as an excuse. Our apartment gym is always way too hot so this was a perfect combo – icy pop + electrolytes + gym!

PowerICE - frozen hydration with electrolytes

In our (yes, our, Chris tried some too!) limited testing environment – just the gym – we have come up with some great things to say about the product. The flavor is legit, it is there and you can taste it unlike some supplements that leaving you wishing there was more. We’ve focused on weight training while using it, not cardio, but during the 20-60 minutes in the gym we have never left feeling parched or drained. Plus, they are fun to eat!

As for suggestions? It’d be nice to see more flavors (I’m not a citrus person) and a slightly narrower tube so the plastic isn’t cutting up my lip corners/cheeks. Overall…definitely something I’d love to have around come summer. And its never to soon to plan for summer, right?! Especially in Denver when we can bask in 60+ degree days just a week after –15 degrees!

So there you have it – my super creative tactics for talking myself into a strength workouts, a snowy sneak peeks at my weekend in Steamboat and a shameless plug for PowerICE, something you’ll wish you had in your freezer post run when it starts to heat up again!


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