Strength and Mobility (SAM)
I’m a big fan of identifying small margins of improvement that are simple and time efficient to do and can have BIG impact on my running. One of those is adding in some strength and mobility exercises into my training plan.
What are Strength and Mobility Exercises?
As the name suggest Strength and Mobility (SAM) are simple movement exercises that help to strength key muscles used when running while also maintaining and increasing your range of mobility and motion in key joints of your body. Having good strength and mobility can help you move more freely and improve your running mechanics and technique, especially during the latter parts of races, workouts and long runs. This in turn can have a positive impact on reducing the possibility of injuries occurring since consistent poor running technique forces other parts of your body to over compensate and overused. Strengthening key muscles also helps the muscles to manage the repeated pounding and stress that they are constantly put under while training.
These are the exercises I use and value as recommended by Coach Jay Johhson and Dr, Richard Hansen:
When should I perform Strength and Mobility exercises?
These improvements don’t occur over night though, like everything else they take time. But you’re a runner so you’re used to delayed gratification. The key is to keep doing them consistently. Start by just doing this simple 10 minute routine once a week, every week. Build that routine so that you know the exercises inside out and it becomes habit after a run. Gradually increase your frequency, aim to do them twice a week. The deeper you go into your training cycle, you should start to appreciate some of the rewards. Personally, once I incorporated these into my running, after several weeks, I felt fresher for my runs the following day and I’ve had less injuries and niggles. I didn’t always feel fresh the next day at first, once I got started I felt sore the next day from the exercises, but once my body adapted to this demand I really started to reap the benefits. Over time you may also start to notice improvement in your contact time with the ground, increased stride length, a healthier cadence, more power in each stride and hopefully an increase in your training and race performances.
I try to incorporate SAM a couple of times a week, usually after my easy runs, commonly referred to as SAM(E). Right after a run is the perfect time as your muscles are warmed up, ready to be be stretched and your joints and are well lubricated to be mobilized. For me, once I sit down or go inside I exit running mode and this makes it much harder to complete my SAM exercises, often leading to me skipping them altogether. Now I’ve gotten into the habit of finishing my run and going straight into them and that’s a strategy I plan to keep. I also like that it feels like it’s a easy bonus workout as my heart rate is still elevated, so it’s helping my body to keep working hard even when I might be feeling tired after my run. Try not to wait too long after you have finished your run (especially if it’s cold) as your muscles stiffen up, making the exercises more difficult and in my opinion, less enjoyable to perform.
You can also switch up your SAM exercises to bring some variety and also target different muscles and types of motion. Here’s Phase II of SAM:
For now I just do it after my easy days, but you can do SAM exercises after your Hard workouts too, known as SAM(H). Here’s a video showing you how to perform these SAMH too for those of you who are super committed!