Conventional wisdom says that in order to get good at something you need to continually repeat that activity. For example, the science fiction writer Jerry Pournelle says that you need to write about 2,000,000 words before you become a consistently good writer. With running, it stands to reason that running more would make you a better runner.
That’s what I thought and it’s what I did when I last considered myself a runner, about a decade ago. The trouble was that even though I added distance, I didn’t really get much faster or stronger. Eventually, I plateaued.
This time I’ve been training in quite a different way. My focus has been more balanced with a mix of running and weight lifting. My weight lifting program is very basic. It’s based on four compound exercises: the squat, the deadlift, bench-press and bent-over row. As a result, my overall strength has improved substantially.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to run up a local hill on one of my runs. Until then, I’d worked my route so that I could avoid that hill. The first time I tried to take that hill I couldn’t do it. The next time it was hard. But when I added squats to my regular routine, that hill became little more than a minor annoyance. The extra leg strength has made a significant difference.
It also means that my general fitness is far better. Rather than only working part of my body, I’m balancing the work so that all the major muscles in my body are worked.