Monday has a brand problem. The weekend is over, most good restaurants are closed, and the daily grind begins anew. Wednesday, or hump day (the week's second-worst brand), at least suggests progress, a muddling along. But Monday, often a rest day for those who do long runs on weekends, is square one. It is inert. No other day feels as perennially lousy or has songs dedicated to its existential dread. Around here Senior Editor Jeff Dengate has gone and made things worse.
A couple months ago, Jeff, a greyhound who puts in 50 to 80 miles per week, started a Monday strength-training workout at RW's gym. The winter months are typically when I scale back my running and nurse my nagging injuries (left hamstring, right hip flexor and SI joint) back to health, so I decided to check it out. Before lunch on yet another dreary Monday, eight of us grabbed barbells and exercise mats and entered the plyometric pain cave that is IronStrength. Jordan Metzl, M.D., a marathoner, triathlete, and sports-medicine physician, designed IronStrength about three years ago to help runners get faster and stay injury-proof. It's a ballistic regimen of jump squats, deep lunges, push-ups, crunches, leg lifts, burpees, planks, standing one-legged bends, and sundry other moves that focus on our chronically weak glutes, quads, hip flexors, cores, and hamstrings. When that first session was mercifully over, the floor around me was a Jackson Pollock canvas of sweat. I was so sore the next day -- and the two days after -- that I stayed at my desk for hours at a stretch because I couldn't bear to get up from my chair.
The second week wasn't as crippling, and by the third week I noticed a big difference in my strength, flexibility, and range of motion. We've now worked up to 40-minute sessions (Dr. Metzl's full workout is an hour), and I feel better on my runs than I've felt in months. If you can stand it, this stuff really works -- and it's catching on. A series of IronStrength videos on our website is always among our most-watched, getting more than 100,000 plays per month. Dr. Metzl estimates he's trained 5,000 runners in IronStrength classes in New York City and has converts setting up groups all over the world.
Dr. Metzl directs a plyometric jump squat in our most popular video of 2013.
Let's face it, getting dinged up or even hurt is part of our sport, at the front as well as the back of the pack. As with any adversity, what matters is how we respond. In our March issue, Olympic hopeful Lauren Fleshmen extols (indirectly) the virtues of cross-training, physical therapy, and rest days. In this same issue, Katie McDonald Neitz, RW's articles editor, visits RunSmart, a new running clinic at New York University's Langone Medical Center, hoping to end her six-year struggle with hamstring pain. After being tested and advised by a team of physicians and therapists, and spending many hours in PT, she is getting healthier and running stronger.
Still, many runners just want to run, not bound, stretch, lunge, and squat -- frittering away time they could spend out on the road! And many of those people (damn them) run quite well despite imperfect mechanics, with no need for rehab routines. Editor at Large Mark Remy, for example, is a severe overpronator who's run 24 marathons in nearly 20 years (PR: 2:46) with practically zero injuries. He also got the full workup at the RunSmart clinic, but left with a different take. "The NYU folks clearly know their stuff, and they analyzed me top to bottom and front to back, and synthesized all of it into a 27-page (!) report that details weaknesses and tells me how to address them," he notes. "And I'm just not interested. Things might be different if I had a chronic injury, or I were 15 years younger and still fanatical about shaving every possible second off my PRs. But I don't, and I'm not. I could get a similarly detailed report on my car, but it's fairly reliable and gets me where I want to go. Personally, that's all I require of my car. And, I guess, of my running."
Fair enough. For others, though, it's because we love running so much that we're willing to put in the extra effort to avoid or overcome injuries. So I'll stick with what appears to be working. Hopefully IronStrength will help me reach the goals I've been chasing for several years (a Boston qualifier), as well as some new ones (a 5:00 mile). It's already had an unexpected benefit: I'm beginning to like Mondays.
David Willey, Editor-in-Chief
This editor's letter appears on Page 10 of the March 2014 issue of Runner's World Magazine, on newsstands now.
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