The alternative to weight loss is an increase in relative strength through gains in muscle mass. This is completely justified, and athletes should not be wary of muscular growth (for muscles carrying the main load in their sports movements.)I have heard few people tout the opinion that being a female high school athlete is an easy undertaking. The amount of pressure females are under in today’s society to look a certain way and present certain physical attributes is enormous. Runners, in my opinion, have it especially tough because there is such strong stigma around female runners being super lean and waify.
-Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky (Science and Practice of Strength Training)
As a freshman in high school, with my running performances, I relied a great deal on natural talent. I would go to practice, get though the workouts and return home. I was tiny at the time, tall and thin, and my stature caused my high school coach to frequently ask me if I was eating enough (which I was, mind you, I have quite a large appetite as Randy can probably attest.) Anyways, I found great success my freshman year and ended up being able to compete at state, which was a huge accomplishment. I followed the same regimen my sophomore year. Unfortunately, that year, I found myself getting defeated race after race as my times were not improving and I started gaining weight but not muscle mass. Going through the motions wasn't good enough anymore. My self-confidence began to drop and I started dreading going to practice but gaining nothing from it.
I started training at Barbell Strategy the winter of my junior year. After taking a serious look at what needed to be modified with my training plan, I also began to incorporate various strength training, conditioning, and cross-training workouts along with my running workouts. After experiencing such great success my freshman year, I wanted to get back to the level that I was on before. Shortly after beginning to train at Barbell Strategy, I noticed a difference in my muscle definition. My legs felt so responsive and efficient my first meet back on the track, I didn’t know why I hadn’t started the training sooner.
That track season I dropped just about 6 seconds in my 800m time, going from a 2.18 to a 2.12. After placing 14th at State in the 800m Sophomore year, I came back my junior year and took 4th (the 1st place finisher crossing the line in 2.11.) My 800m performance from that spring allowed me to greatly broaden my college search to include D1 universities that I never imagined would be possible, and I will be continuing to run for Colorado State next year.
If I hadn’t started strength training, I absolutely believe that I would still be stuck in that rut that I found myself in, and that so many other female high school runners find themselves in. Hitting a plateau is a tough experience, and I have seen many friends and competitors give up when they aren’t reaping the benefits from their workouts. I am strongly of the opinion that to be a good runner, you need to be doing more than just running. To be a good runner, you need to be taking good care of your body and building and replenishing muscles is one of the most important things an athlete can do for their bodies. Unfortunately, strength training is often given little emphasis with high school athletes. Especially runners. Especially female runners. By putting strength development on the backburner, coaches are not only sacrificing the talents of their young athletes, but heightening their likelihood of injury. Fortunately, for me, I still have two more track seasons ahead of me (indoor and outdoor) where I can showcase all that I have gained with my strength training.
Comparison Photos: Both of these pictures were taken at around the same place in the 400m dash, coming down the back stretch. (Captions below)
Bottom Picture: Junior year. After a few months of training at Barbell Strategy. Proud, upright posture, Full knee and arm drive. Forefoot landing. Relaxed and comfortable face. Injury free. And I brought my relay team to a victory in this race! (we won a pizza.)
Brief note: I am aiming to do a series of blog posts interviewing other runners about their experience with Barbell Strategy. If you would like to be involved, please shoot me an email! email@example.com