Having and maintaining “runner’s legs” generally means your calves, thighs and dozens of other muscles are well sculpted, toned and defined. For many runners, staying strong means putting in months/years of trekking and strength training to keep joints and muscles flexible and fluid. All runners know that when you’re strength training, leg day can consist of many simple – yet torturing exercises like lunges, long jumps, squats or even pistol squats (if you can attempt at keeping your balance for this challenging movement!). You can practice these exercises at home or in the gym in between sets of other exercises.
If you don’t have a gym membership or access to equipment like a leg press or a calf raise machine, which are among the contraptions that help build muscles to improve your running performance, there’s simple equipment on the market that’s inexpensive, lightweight, compact and can be utilized anywhere you go.
They’re known as resistance bands!
‘Resistance Bands 101’
For those of you who have seen resistance bands in sporting good stores or in the fitness section of a department store in those small compact boxes and thought “What the heck am I going to do with these?” the rubbery, expandable and multifunctional marvels are perfect for runners who don’t want to “go hard” on leg day, but still keep their muscles flexible and maintained in between runs.
They’re also helpful for Pilates, yoga and could assist with physical therapy, gradually repairing muscles that have been injured.
Space-saving resistance bands often sold in packs of 3 to 6 (sometimes more), are mostly made of stretchy latex or rubber. They’ve become more popular over the years, varying in sizes, color, and weight of resistance. Some are designed as solid loop bands, that simply resemble big rubber bands. There are also handle tube resistance bands, which don’t form a complete circle and many have nylon and foam handle grips on either side.
Fitness gurus are constantly inventing new ways of designing these versatile bands, so you may want to do your research on what type of resistance bands work best for you. The bottom line when purchasing these gems is that their wide range of motion helps tone the lower body (and the upper body) without the use of heavy weights and their gravitational pulls. Machines push you to endure strenuous body/leg movements that can sometimes leave you exhausted, preventing you from enjoying even a short run the next day – especially if you went hard and need more recovery time.
The weights of resistance bands are typically divided into categories including “light” (10-35 pounds) “medium” (40-80 pounds) and “heavy” (60-150 pounds). The true feeling of the weight can vary from band to band but, overall, purchasing a multi-pack could motivate you to master each resistance as you challenge yourself with different exercises. While some athletes don’t want to bulk up and get bigger physically – which traditional weights tend to do as you increase or add more pounds – resistance bands are perfect for simple maintaining and toning.
Some resistance band “bundles” come with a ton of goodies – including cables and straps you can use as a door anchor. At first, you may think some of these accessories are…excessive, but once you discover the benefits of a few simple exercises, you’ll be glad you made the investment.
Don’t Resist – Research!
Now that we’ve piqued your curiosity about the versatility of resistance bands, you may wonder how they can really help you become a better runner. Doing a little research on how to incorporate these bands into your workout routine will make all the difference. One way to get some workout ideas is searching YouTube or other social media for beginners tips based on the type of bands you ultimately wind up purchasing.
With hundreds of suggested workouts – like ankle jumping jacks (just place a resistance band around your ankles while you’re doing traditional jumping jacks), you’ll add more diversity and difficulty to a simple move that can transform your leg muscles.
Tired of traditional side lunges? You can strengthen your thighs by completing a variety of lateral band walks, stepping side to side with the elastic around your ankles, knees, and thighs. The slight challenge can strengthen your running stride, speed, and endurance.
The key to getting the most out of your new toys is getting visuals on the correct way to use them. One way to jazz up your at-home workout is to save a video playlist of exercises that start out easy and gradually become more challenging. You can also begin with the lighter band weights and over time, increase the resistance around your legs while also increasing the number of sets you complete.
Thanks to the countless number of athletes and fitness instructors who post workout videos on the proper use of home equipment, it won’t be hard to find a routine that suits you. There are dozens of exercise platforms where you can follow resistance band workout videos and galleries for movement suggestions – some you may even want to modify with your own techniques.
Next, researching where you’re able to use resistance bands could prove to be very interesting!.
You CAN Sit On This Idea
No one is going to lug a barbell or clunky weights with them to the office!
However, when you’re sitting in one place all day – sometimes for eight hours a day or more – you may feel like you should be doing something to pump increase your circulation! Runners certainly can’t tolerate leg cramps and tight muscles – especially if they’re planning on going for a run after work.
You don’t have to be afraid or embarrassed by taking resistance bands to work with you! When it comes to fitting them into your book bag or purse, they’re barely noticeable and can be tucked inside any small compartment. You also don’t have to worry about the weight of carrying them around – they’re almost as light as a feather! Resistance bands are also small/thin enough to fit inside of your desk drawer and they’re not unsightly (think about having a contraption like the “Thighmaster” – a resistance tool introduced the 1990s – flinging out from between your legs and outside of your cubicle!)
If you never thought you could exercise without leaving your chair – think again! Hip abductions are ideal exercises you can do at your desk in a somewhat discreet manner. Simply place a closed loop band around your knees or upper thighs and move your legs apart. A few reps and sets of these each day not only helps blood circulation if you’re stuck at your workstation all day – but it also serves as a mini stretching/strength training routine before you get home and go on that run.
Seated resistance band workouts can help maintain core muscles as well. By placing a band around your feet and creating a bicycle-like pedaling up and down movement with your legs, you’re helping keep your core form stable. Try a couple of these reps (you may need to hold onto your chair for balance) and you’ll feel it in your abs!
There are countless exercises you can master and improvise on your own. That’s why resistance bands are one of the most awesome “fitness secrets” – because they can be secretive and effective!
There Are No If, And Or ‘Butts’ About The Benefits
You may not feel it initially as you’re running, but the strength of your gluteus maximus (the butt muscles, or the ‘glutes’) can help you power through those miles. Sometimes, during a run, transferring more of your body movements to your glutes and upper thighs help ease the strain on your calves and ankles – especially when roughing out those inclines. Glute workouts can help condition your lower body for longer runs and help you push a little bit more when you’re going the distance.
Let’s say you’re traveling and you’re confined to a small space in your hotel room or a friend/relative’s home. Want to create a mini “workout zone” for your glutes? When you have resistance bands with you, it’s no problem! You don’t need a huge space to get that booty in shape!
With a range of motions like the butt kick-back – an exercise that involves wrapping a band around your feet while you’re on all fours and pushing the resistance band back away from yourself with one leg straight out, and then the other – you only need a small area to get the most out of your movements. Beefing up and isolating the butt muscles with simple band stretches can help maintain and tone your lower body for other exercises.
Another benefit is that you can use resistance bands in conjunction with workout equipment -, especially cardio machines – for your glutes. Change up that snooze-worthy Stairmaster or treadmill routine!
Make it a little more challenging by keeping a resistance band strapped around your upper thighs while you walk or climb. As a suggestion, you can use a more flexible band that gives you a wider range of movement but still has significant tension. While on the treadmill, keep a slow pace with the band around your thighs or knees and try walking sideways with the treadmill belt. You may have to practice your footing and balance a few times before you get the hang of coordinating the movement with your hips, legs, and glutes.
The Pre- and Post-Run Benefits
Stretching before and after a run is critical for keeping muscles from cramping up and prevents injury. If your warm-up routine consists of squats, hamstring or lower calf stretches, try adding a resistance band to the mix. You may find it easier to conquer a long run after gently challenging your muscles and loosening your ligaments with a mini resistance band warm up. Standing kickbacks completed with a resistance band helps warm up the muscles in the back of your thighs.
Resistance bands can prove just as effective in recovery. You may want to use the lightest resistance band weight to get a fluid stretch when you’re finished running. Post-run exercises include the butterfly stretch (sitting up straight and keeping your knees apart so that the bottom of your feet come together) and various hamstring stretches (both seated and standing). Keeping a resistance band around your thighs and ankles during many of these targeted stretches can help maintain your flexibility and prevent tightness.
Here’s a great idea for runners who are concerned about the flexibility or tightness of their muscles before or after a race: bring your resistance bands with you on race day to get a few deep and wide motion stretches. Flatter and thinner bands will conveniently fit right in your pocket or backpack – don’t worry about bulkiness!
Now that you’re in-the-know about how resistance bands can boost your running routine, there’s no question about the benefits of their versatility. Once you start improvising and creating your own unique exercises, you’ll find these bands irresistible!