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Strength Training Tips From Personal Trainer Darien Hawkins, PES, NASM-CPT

Athlete, fitness professional and certified personal trainer Darien Hawkins, PES, NASM-CPT, offers tips on strength training for runners.

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Nat Runs Far Interviews Darien Hawkins, PES, NASM-CPT

Hey everyone, it’s Natalie from NatRunsFar. Last week, I had a chance to interview Darien Hawkins, PES, NASM-CPT, and he had some very valuable information to share with our readers. Darien is an amazing athlete, fitness professional and certified personal trainer. He studied nutrition at University of California Davis while running on the track team as a collegiate athlete. After graduating from UC Davis, Darien had an opportunity to run professionally, representing Adidas both nationally and internationally in the 110-meter and 400m hurdles. He also qualified for the Olympic Trials in 1996, which is crazy impressive–to say the least! After developing his own personal training fitness business for many years, Darien now runs his current company, ROI Wellness Solutions. The company’s goal is to help other companies lower health care expenditures, advance productivity and improve overall health and morale within each organization.

It’s safe to say Darien knows his stuff. Check out our interview with some questions I thought would benefits runners at every level.

Related: 6-Move Strength Training Circuit For Runners Of All Levels

How often should runners be strength training during the week?

It all depends on the athlete’s goal. If the goal is to improve performance, then three to five days of optimum training is needed. If the goal is to maintain the current physical, physiological and performance levels, then one or two days per week will work.

When is the best time to strength train?

Strength training is the conditioning of the neuromuscular system to dynamically and repetitively create an internal tension that will overcome outside forces. Therefore, multiple types of strength training is needed to enhance sports performance. Some of the most important types of strength training for performance improvement are flexibility training, SAQ training, explosive and plyometric  training, core training, balance training, integrated resistance training and sports specific cardio training. All of these strength training components make up a complete training program for improving your performance. That being said, the best time to strength train will be before your sport’s specific cardio portion of your program (your running workouts).

Give us your top strength moves (for the whole body) that every runner should incorporate into their training.

Bridges are good exercises for stabilization and neuromuscular efficiency. Single-leg squats are a good exercise for balance and strengthening. Speed ladder drills are excellent for SAQ (speed, agility, quickness). Squat jumps are pretty solid for explosion. And for total body strength, I would go with burpees with dynamic moves, like pushups.

Having a strong core is so important. What’s your best advice for a rock-solid core? Also, how often should we do core work during the week?

A rock-solid core requires a progressive and systematic approach to strengthening the core. There are three phases of core training. Phase one is core stability: the purpose of this phase is to develop maximum neuromuscular efficiency and intervertebral stability. These exercises are designed to provide little to no movement in the spine and pelvic area. Phase two, core strengthening. These exercises go through more of a full range of motion (full range sit-ups, stability ball crunches, back extensions, etcetera) while incorporating the strength gains from phase one. Phase three is core power. Core power exercises are designed to improve the rate of force produced by the core muscles. These exercises prepare athletes to stabilize and produce force at game time speeds. Exercise in this phase includes medicine ball throws and catches performed as fast and far as possible. The last component to a solid core is proper nutrition. Processed sugar is the enemy! A well-balanced diet should be consumed daily to promote optimum core development.

Let’s talk about weights. Many women are learning that lifting heavy weights doesn’t make you bulky, but can give you a lot of strength and make you lean and toned. What’s your advice about weight training? How much weight should a distance runner lift?

This depends on the individual. As I mentioned earlier, if the goal is improve performance, then three to five days are needed, and if the goal is to just maintain your current condition, then one or two days is ample. In regards to how heavy a distance runner should lift, it depends on what the goal is. If the goal is to develop muscle stability and endurance, then the rep count should range from 12 to 20 reps and the weight should be about 50 to 70 percent of maximum effort. If the goal is to increase muscle size, the rep count should be between six and 12 reps with the weigh at 75 to 85 percent of one rep maximum. If the goal is to become as strong as possible, then the rep count should be one to five at 85 to 100 percent of one rep maximum. If the goal is to develop as much power as possible, the reps should be one to 10 with the maximum weight at 30 to 45 percent of one rep maximum.

How does a marathon runner avoid gaining weight during a training cycle? Some women struggle with being so hungry from running all the miles that they end up gaining weight during training! How can strength training help with that?

One way to avoid weight gain during training is to eat more purposeful meals throughout the day. What I mean is, you should eat five to six small meals daily, and these meals should be spaced every three to four hours apart. Also, consume a post-workout meal within 30 minutes of completing the workout. There is a small window in which your body is open to accept the necessary nutrients needed for recovery and muscle fuel.

Strength training will not make you less hungry–it will do the opposite. Strength training requires calories: the more intense the workout, the more calories you will use. That’s why it’s important that you are eating regular meals, and that your are eating them at the proper times.

A huge thanks to Darien for taking the time to answer these important questions for runners!


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