Stronger Runners are Better Runners

“If you don’t find the time, if you don’t do the work, you don’t get the results.” 

– Arnold Schwarzenegger

For this week’s Tuesday ping, I am going off the trail for a great discussion with Travis Holley, co-owner of Travis County Strength, here in Austin. My goal in speaking with Travis was to highlight the importance of incorporating some strength training into your weekly routine, to be come stronger, better and healthier runners. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did! There is a lot of useful information in the interview, so thank you to Travis for taking the time out on the rare few hours off to help spread the word on strength.

Disclaimer: I have been a member of TCS since January 2016. There are a lot of things I love about going to this place, and I have gained so much more than just strength by adding to this my life, so I personally can’t recommend this enough it into your weekly routine. Whether you look into a gym like Travis County Strength or you set-up a garage gym of our own, I hope you find as much of a benefit as I have.

 

ATRC: You went to college for sport & exercise science. How did you get into fitness? What was your first sport? Favorite sport to play?

Travis Holley: I did! I knew I wanted to be a strength coach pretty early on. I had an elementary PE Teacher that was my idol, and I wanted to be just like Mr. Schrad. I always loved sports – soccer and hockey being my favorites, respectively. Hockey was not going to “take me anywhere” so I began to really focus in on soccer, which provided the luxury of some scholarships at my community college in Wyoming. Western Wyoming Community College is probably a school no one probably has ever heard of, but it was an amazing experience that really solidified my decision to continue down the path of a Strength Coach.

I transferred to the University of Northern Colorado and finished my BS in Exercise Science

ATRC: What has been the hardest part of pursuing strength training as a career?

TH: I guess I haven’t really found it all that difficult. I know that may sound strange, but it’s always just been the thing I was doing because I love it. Starting our business, Jen Shaw and myself, is a completely different story, however. I can’t say that I ever saw myself owning and operating my own gym at this stage of life and the major obstacle has been the actual business logistics. But, with some help and guidance from our friends and clientele that *do* have experience in this realm, we have been able to navigate the early years relatively well and are looking forward to the future.

ATRC: An endurance athlete comes to TCS. Why do they need strength training, and what do you recommend to them if they only have 1-2 hours a week to dedicate to strength?

TH: Everyone needs strength training in some capacity. EVERYONE. Endurance athletes are a tricky bunch sometimes. Often times, endurance athletes are stuck in the old ways of thought and training that, “more is better”. I realize that training must prepare you for the actual task, and in the case of a long distance runner, this means you have to spend the time on your feet adapting to that stress. However, utilizing only one mode of training can (and in most cases, will) lead to overuse injuries and/or burnout. You need a strength and conditioning component to do a couple important things:

  1. Strength work creates a stronger, more durable system. This is incredibly important to those of your readers that train for long distances because at a certain point (different for everyone) there will be loss of movement integrity. Basically, your frame buckles and your form goes to sh*t. I’m sure everyone can remember an instance where they were just doing whatever they could to put one foot in front of the other. The last thought was maintaining proper positioning and mechanics. A strong body system can handle higher capacities of stress.
  2. Mixing up your modes of training is not only smart, but it’s also a way for your to prevent burnout. If all you do is run the same routes, you will surely start to see diminishing returns or even injury. Getting out of the regular routine and stepping into a gym gives you a mental break as well as alters the stress stimulus in a positive way – especially if you have friends or classmates to make the experience a social one at that (in between sets, of course.)

Please! If all you have is one hour a week, get out of the same old movement patterns. Running is a movement that occurs in the sagittal plane (front to back) of movement and has your standing upright the entire time. I would encourage anything that gets you to move laterally (frontal plane) or with some rotation (transverse plane). Also, change levels! Get up and get down. Squats (weighted or unweighted), pushups, inverted rows and simply picking stuff up off the floor can be put together in any combo and you will see positive things happen. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Just change the way you move your body, and when able, do those things with appropriate weights.

ATRC: What are one or two of the most common misconceptions about strength training you hear?

TH: This is a big one. So much so that I’m going to give you 3 instead of 2:

  1. If women strength train, they will become bulky. This is absurd! There is a lot of physiology that we could dive into, but I will spare you. But, you should know that it is incredibly difficult to actually put on lean muscle mass. This is especially true of the types of physiques that come to mind when someone pictures a “bulky” person. It requires strength workouts that stimulate the body to grow via weight and intensity. Most people do not train hard enough to stimulate this growth. The second part of that equation, and possibly the more important variable, is that you must eat an incredible amount of quality food to fuel that growth. Most people would be shocked to know that eating to gain mass is like a part-time job and requires structure, planning and commitment. Anyone, men or women, concerned about bulking is simply operating in a narrative that has been pushed by some silly person a long time ago.
  2. Squatting is bad for your knees. UGH! What?! Squatting is an innate human movement. Think about that. We (humans) have been structured in such a way to allow for a range of motion to occur. Do you honestly believe that performing that movement pattern is something we should avoid? How do you plan to sit down and stand up from the dinner table? The business meeting conference table? The toilet?
    What *can* be bad for your knees is performing poor movement mechanics over and over and over again. The squat, when done properly, builds strength and joint integrity in the back, hips, knees and ankles. Anyone out there use these joints for stuff? Exactly! You need to be squatting, but doing it properly and and appropriate loads is critical.
  3. Deadlifting is bad for your back. Look. We’ve just gone through this with the squat. Understand that the deadlift is how you pick up your kid, your groceries, your suitcase, your case of beer after a long run. Whatever. You already deadlift and you’ve made it this far. I would encourage that you learn to do it well, with proper technique so that you can continue to pick those everyday items up safely, because it doesn’t have to be 400lbs on a barbell that causes back injuries. You can do some damage picking up a sack of groceries if you aren’t moving properly. And not to mention, the spine (and most other joints) takes a massive beating during a long run. Training in a way that utilizes the squat and deadlift only improves the ability of the body to handle the workload you place on it.

ATRC: From the coach’s perspective, what does it mean for a client to be coachable? What does that look like in practice?

TH: Being coachable is simple, not easy. You need to open yourself up. You need to allow yourself to be vulnerable. Critiques will undoubtedly come, but if you understand that they are coming from a place of caring and you use those critiques to improve rather than shut down you are doing what you need to to be coached. A friendly, positive attitude doesn’t hurt either. : )

A sample Travis workout from the white board. I do appreciate his impeccable hand-writing!

ATRC: You teach full-day courses in Strongman and routinely use Strongman movements in class (Strongman is awesome and so much fun!- Pam). What is Strongman? What would the benefit be for your average trail or road runner?

TH: Strongman is probably the oldest form of strength training out there.
I’m sure the origins of Strongman beginning is some sort of prehistoric alpha-male contest to see who could move the biggest rock. Humans have been doing Strongman since day one. It is how we move things in our day-to-day world. It is, in fact, a sport, but I think it’s more important to define Strongman as movement. Strongman is the pushing, pulling, throwing, carrying, lifting of typically odd-objects, and by their very nature, odd-objects are difficult to maneuver.

Carrying two sacks of groceries, one in each hand, is a farmers carry. Picking up a bag of dog food off the floor is a deadlift and gut carry or shoulder load. See! You do Strongman already and didn’t even know it. However, I think it’s incredibly powerful for people to come and learn the proper techniques of Strongman movements. The positions and methods used to maneuver life’s odd-objects can be a bit challenging, so to understand some basics will only empower you to trust your own abilities to handle daily obstacles. It’s also just a really fun and interesting way to build strength durability and improve conditioning, and we’ve already discussed the benefits of those previously.

ATRC: What 3 pieces of gear or equipment you can’t live without?

TH: Honestly, I can’t think of anything that I wouldn’t be able to live without when it comes to training gear or equipment. I like to train in a way that keeps me ready to act quickly and without hesitation. If I have to have a thing in order to operate, I feel like I am going to be crippled without it, so I just don’t become reliant on stuff or gear.
That being said, the one piece of training gear that I think is the most versatile and valuable is a sandbag. They are cheap and easy to make and repair, they allow for a ton of different movements and you can basically use it anywhere. In fact, I had a client that moved to India for a year and I told him to buy a sandbag shell, fill it with sand when he got there and then I would send him our daily workouts. He was able to do 90% of all the things we did in our gym with that bag and came back is amazing shape!

ATRC: If you had a week to go hiking somewhere, where would you love to go?
TH: I grew up in Wyoming with the Wind River Range and The Tetons in my backyard. Those are some tough spots to beat, but I think I’d really like to check out Glacier National Park and Patagonia (in the summer months). Those are some bucket list destinations.

ATRC: You get to invite 2-3 people from any time past or present over for cigars & bourbon. Who are they? Why them?
TH: I’m not very good at these types of questions, but we’ll give it go. I think Teddy Roosevelt would be an incredible person to talk with. His adventurous nature is something I admire. The second person is my Grandpa. He’s still alive and well so it’s as simple as an invite, but he’s lived an incredible life filled with service, adventures and hard work. He’s also an incredible story-teller and would also love to sit with old Teddy.

 

If you’re interested in learning more about TCS, you can check out their website: https://www.traviscountystrength.com/

Jen and Travis offer a women’s only program (LIFT), and a co-ed program (Strictly Strength). They have several different options for joining from 4x a month (1 per week) to unlimited. They also offer Strongman classes 3 times a week, a recovery class on Sunday’s and lot’s more

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