Running, and especially endurance or long distance running, puts a lot of stress on the body. Therefore, it is always important to try and find ways to help the body either protect itself from the stresses induced in a long ultra run or day in the mountains on trails, or to find ways to help the body recover quickly and efficiently after long runs. I learned this lessons the hard way after totally failing to take in any fuel during my first race - a short 50K trail ultra. I've been working on the fuel issues, and have found some success (basically eat 100 calories every 20-30 mins). However, what else can one due to help prepare the body for such runs? A new study just published called Effects of Repeated Bouts of Squatting Exercise on Sub-Maximal Endurance Running Performance offers one idea. The idea, basic as it may seem, is to incorporate some resistance exercises into your training. You can do this via specific running exercise such as polymer jumps, lunges and squats, speed work, hill workouts, and the like. Or you can add in some cross-training or even weight training. The reason that this seems to be important, at least based on this one study, is that resistance exercise helps to protect the skeletal muscle from the detrimental effects of exercise-induced muscle damage, which in turn has a big impact on one's endurance running performance.
Basically, running in ultras or on long trail days in the mountains causes a fair amount of muscle damage (which we all know). However, as this study seems to indicate, if we want to recover faster, and not damage ourselves as much during these runs, we should incorporate some resistance exercises into our training. And not even a lot, just once a week or even once every two weeks. As the study found, one resistance exercise (squats in this case), helped to protect the skeletal muscles two weeks later from damage. Amazing! So, next time your buddy wants you to do a track day, or some hill workouts, or whatever, jump at it (literally). One session every two weeks and you will be that much more able to protect your body and recover faster after your next ultra or long run. Happy running!