Runnin' Devil Style

July 25, 2001

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    Note: Every Wednesday, I'll be writing a regular column about my experience as a Sun Devil Cross Country and Track runner. In each article, I'll attempt to bring you a first-hand account of what it's like to be a Sun Devil Student-Athlete and to run for one of the top programs in the country. In my last article, I addressed the transition of going from high school to college athletics and the expectations that come with such a change. For this week's installment, I'll share with you more about the weight training regimen that we, as Sun Devil Cross Country runners follow.

    When it comes to weight training, images of big muscles and buff bodies usually come to mind. Bodybuilders, football players, and professional wrestlers further define this image, with training centered on power and strength. So, where a runner fits into this picture remains unclear. Does weight training even effect a runner's performance? Furthermore, in an endurance-based sport such as cross country, are there benefits to strengthening important running muscles? The answer to all these questions is YES! Weight training is a vital component in every running program, and for the ASU Cross Country Program, a balanced weight training program is key to our continued improvement and success.

    While our weight training routine works the whole body, the majority of the exercises focus on strengthening the abdominal and back muscles. Unusual as this may seem, the reasoning for targeting these areas is simple. These muscles are the core muscles that everything else is attached to. For example, the lower and upper body muscles are affected by how strong the abdominal and back muscles are maintained. In training, these muscles are especially important, because when a runner becomes tired, the body relies more and more on these muscles to sustain an intense racing pace. If they are weak, bad form and injuries can result. To prevent such injuries, we do a range of exercises such as back hyperextensions and hanging knee and leg lifts. We also include traditional sit-ups as part of this regimen.

    Besides the abdominal and back muscles, we concentrate mainly on working our arm and shoulder muscles. These muscles are vital, because when a runner's legs get tired, he or she starts to rely on upper body movement to keep them going. Therefore, the stronger a runner's arms are, the faster they'll be able to pump their arms and the quicker their leg turnover will be. For these exercises, we combine lifts such as the seated bench press, incline bench press, lateral pull-down, arm curls, and lateral raises.

    Of course, we make sure not to neglect our leg muscles! We concentrate on strengthening the calf muscles, quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip flexors. Since running tones these muscles naturally, it is not as necessary to place the added emphasis on these areas. Primarily, these lifts consist of squats and lunges, calf raises, and resistance roping to work the hip flexors and hamstrings.

    Now that you have an idea of what muscles we train, you may wonder how often we do this training. Typically, we weight train two to three times per week, varying our repetitions between two and three sets of ten. As runners, we emphasize longer repetitions with less weight, although the weight should be heavy enough to tire us out after nine to ten repetitions. In other words, we do not concentrate on maxing out and building significant muscle bulk, because this slows us down.

    Again, weight training is a part of running that cannot be neglected. Strong muscles prevent injuries and enable us to run with extra power, added endurance, and all-around confidence. I don't know about you, but I feel pretty good in a race knowing that I'm both mentally and PHYSICALLY STRONGER than the next runner. Here's to the start of your successful weight-training program and the continued improvement you'll see as a result!

    A little bit about me:
    In the fall, I'll begin my sophomore year academically and my freshman year athletically (You may ask how I'm in two years at one time. Well, this past year I was red-shirted in order to preserve four years of my eligibility. Basically, this means that I ran in a limited number of events and did not represent ASU in competition). My primary event during track was the 1500m. I have lived in Tempe now for the past nine years and am a graduate of Corona del Sol High School. At ASU, I am majoring in broadcast journalism, with plans to become a news anchor or sports reporter in the future.

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