This week's weather will have tested many a runner's resolve and commitment to get out and run. Whilst my favourite saying in this case is; " There's no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing ! ", there are many reasons why you may not be able to get out for a run when you'd like, be it the weather, work or family commitments.
This week I thought i would offer a good alternative exercise to replace your run that will simulate running, and as such build strength and good form to complement your running.
Known as the "100- UP" it's a very old exercise that was invented by a champion miler from the late 19th Century, known as George who couldn't always get out for his run when he liked, and so developed this exercise which helped improve his running form and maintain some running fitness.
There are two levels that George called the Minor and the Major which represent two progressions of the exercise. It's most important to note that the focus must be on good form or technique. I will use George's own poetic words to describe his exercise:
First of all let me impress upon the student the necessity of maintaining perfect form in every practice, be it in the preliminary or the exercise proper. Directly the correct form is lost the work should stop. Beginners should start the exercise slowly and on no account strain or over-exert themselves. Hurried or injudicious training, or fast work while the system is unprepared for it, induces breakdown and failure. On the other hand, slow, well considered, steady practice is never injurious, while breakdowns are practically unknown among those who start their training slowly and who gradually increase distance, time or pace as the heart, lungs and muscular system throughout grow accustom to the extra strain and revel in it.
I have divided the ’100-Up’ Exercise into two grades — the Minor and the Major. The Minor is for all classes when learning and is the limit for those who are physically incapable, through age or through infirmity, of participating in the more strenuous or trying major form of the exercise.
The Minor Exercise
Draw two parallel lines along the ground, 18 inches long and 8 inches apart.
Place one foot on the middle of each line. Stand flat-footed, the feet lying perfectly straight on the lines. The arms should be held naturally, loosely, and, except for a slight forward inclination, nearly straight.
Now raise one knee to the height of the hip, and bring the foot back and down again to its original position, touching the line lightly with the ball of the foot and repeat with the other leg. Continue raising and lowering the legs alternately. The main thing to remember is correct action. See that the knees are brought up at each stride to the level of the hip if possible, or as near as possible to the point as can be managed by the too-fat or bodily infirm individual, and that the body maintains its correct perpendicular.
Correct form once attained, the exercise may be increased in severity by gradually working from 10 to 20, 30 to 40, and so on to the ’100-Up’ at each session, and by speeding up the pace.
The Major Exercise
This exercise is more difficult of accomplishment, yet comes easily to the student who by reason of having attained correct form in the preceding preparation will have, at the same time, acquired strength and the art of properly balancing the body when in action.
Stand on the lines marked out on the ground as before, except that the body must be balanced on the ball of the foot, the heel clear of the ground, the head and the body being tilted very slightly forward, and the hands down by the side.
Now spring from the toe, bringing the knee to the level of the hip or as near to that point as physique will permit, as in the minor exercise, letting the foot fall back to its original position. Repeat with the other leg and continue raising and lowering the legs alternately. This action is exactly that of running, except that instead of the legs moving forward as each stride or leg action is performed, the foot drops back into its original position on the ground.
The knees must be brought to the level of the hips (for full benefit) as each stride is taken, and on returning the foot to the ground, care should be taken that it is not carried further behind than the original position. Thus the body is practically kept upright except for the very slight tilt forward.
While performing the ’100-Up’ Major Exercise use the arms as they should be used in the correct way for running, i.e. hold them at full length and swing them forward half across the body and backwards a few inches behind the back as each stride is taken.
I do not advise anyone to attempt more than 20-Up of the Exercise at the start, ten for each leg. Very few can manage so many in correct form at the outset, but regular practise brings greater stamina and an easy action which renders the task less arduous, and once the 20-Up has been accurately accomplished, the number may be steadily increased.
The student must not expect to get true action in a moment. The first few attempts may even be disappointing, but keep steadily trying, and the correct form will come sure enough. Once having become proficent he can keep on working gradually up to the 100 and by judicious variation of pace and number, the athlete can so frame his exercise as to suit the speed and stamina required for the competition, race or branch of sport he has in view.
Now, you might just call this jogging on the spot, which essentially it is, however it is again all about your form.
With full respect to good form, this is what you need to be thinking about;
1. Tall posture, trunk activated, chest up but ribs low. Do not lean back, or bend at the waist.
2. Keeps your hips high and forward. Try to stay up off the ground, not letting your hips drop.
3. Foot and toes up! Think about lifting your foot up toward your butt, rather than lifting your knee. This makes all the difference in this exercise as in good running form! Note the foot lifts up past the opposite knee (see diagram of George) bringing the knee forward and high.
4. Perfect form for this exercise means the knee comes up to hip height. This is where the hard work & strength factor comes in to play.
5. Think about actively pushing the foot back down to meet the ground ( = early glute activation). This action will help to keep you tall, and high as with all strong runners.
This exercise is a form of a 'drill' we commonly see track and elite athletes doing regularly and so remains an integral part of running training today. And now, it is available to you, so give it a go.
Good luck, run well, and let me know how you get on!.