Tuesday, August 24, 2010

If I only buy one piece of exercise equipment, what should it be?

The beauty of running, be it for a marathon, a fun run, or just some recreational jogging is that it is one of the most affordable sports going.  You don’t actually need any kit, none at all if you live in the some liberal places!

The normal process is that when you complete your first 5km race, you find yourself entering a 10km, and than a half marathon, and then quite possibly a marathon. For some of us the need for challenging oneself goes a little further.  The fact is that it is an addictive sport, and most of the people I know who participate are not just happy to take part, but also like to do as well as they can.

So you have to train, and as you start to take your training more seriously you suddenly find yourself in a sports shop looking at all sorts of gym gear, exercise equipment, specialist running shoes, GPS watches and iPods.

The purpose of these, for you should ultimately be to improve your performance. This can take a number of forms, from strengthening weak joints, to improving your running gait, or preventing running injuries, or improving endurance. Whatever the reason there is a specific product out there with the promise to fulfil your every whim. 

Just like a Gym membership!
There is one which sort of fits into this category, a gym membership. For some people it is a necessary evil as they are time poor, or perhaps there are no suitable places to run in lunchtime, or you don’t enjoy running amongst car fumes. Unfortunately a gym membership is much like a puppy, it’s for life, not just for Christmas (it certainly seems like a life sentence when you try and cancel your membership, but that’s another story).  I’d also argue that you get very poor value for money, doing things you can do just easily at home with just a few simple pieces of kit.

Personally I’ve got a barbell for doing squats, a couple of dumbbells for curls, etc, I have a fitness ball, a balance board and a Theraband.  The total cost of these is the equivalent of about 6 weeks membership at one of the national fitness chains. It’s clear that owning your own kits is economically very sound.

So to go back to the main subject of this blog, what is the one piece of equipment you should buy? The answer for me is simple, the Theraband. It wins hands down and for a number of reasons.

It is incredibly versatile.  You can get various thicknesses to give you a range of resistances, but I don’t think this is necessary as you can use a single length for light work, or double up for a stronger workout.  I tend to use it in a loop around a table leg, and you can increase the resistance by make the loop smaller. You don’t even need a fixed point to attach it as you can just loop it around both legs and work both opposing muscle groups at the same time.

It’s cheap, for a few dollars you can buy metres of the stuff.

It’s lightweight and portable. It takes up next to no space at all, which makes it the ideal piece if of kit for the travelling runner.

It’s maintenance free.  There are no moving parts, it’s simple, and will last for a long time if kept clean and dry.

Most importantly it is highly effective for strength and endurance training, especially of those core and supportive muscles that our modern day sedentary lifestyle have allowed to waste. I use the Theraband for strengthening all muscle groups from my core to my feet, but you can use it anywhere across your body. You’re basically limited by your imagination for exercises which you could incorporate it.



My favourite uses are for strengthening the arches of my feet, and my hips and gluteal muscle group.  To maximise the benefit you should focus on posture, alignment and control. It is far better to do slow and controlled movements to ensure that the target and weaker surrounding muscles are getting exercised to mimic the stresses and strains we put on our bodies when running.

Happy Running,
Andy

“Simplicity is the ultimate in sophistication” – Leonardo Da Vinci

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Training 22-8-2010 (27km road/trail run)

Training 23-8-10 Home based gym session:
4x(25 push ups, 20 deep squats with weight, 40 face down leg raises, 20 sit ups on fitness ball)
4x(16 bicep curls, 20 lunges, 40 glutes with fitness ball, 30 bicycles)
4x(20 single leg squats, 16 pec flies on fitness ball, 16 hip raises on fitness ball, 12 leg pushes, pulls and thrusts from hip with Theraband)

Training 24-8-10 (27km trail run)