Your arms and upper body are the brains of your legs when you’re running. If you’re hunched over, with short arm strides, your leg stride will mimic just that and become stiff. That bad upper body form translates all the way down to your lower body, said Nike master trainer Marie Purvis.
Purvis was in town to give a talk to women about women’s fitness and nutrition issues, and how its free app, the Nike Training Club (NTC), can help one become a stronger runner.
“When you’re running and you’re not strong, your body will naturally fall into bad form because it’s compensating for muscles that are weak. So you want to strengthen your upper body for you to be able to sustain the pounding in the running,” Purvis said.
While women around the world share a common health complaint—every girl wants to lose weight, whether they actually need to or not—Purvis noted that Asian women, unlike their Western counterparts, prefer not to have toned and defined muscles.
“In Western culture, toned and lean is sexy. There’s still a notion that skinny is the prettiest. For me, strong is sexy,” she said.
Runners, especially beginners, make the mistake of running every day, she said. They think running daily makes them stronger, when, in fact, running daily, constantly using the same muscle group, makes them more prone to injuries.
Cross-training is important. With a free app like NTC, a 30-45 minute full-body workout designed for home exercise, all women can now cross-train.
NTC is not just an app. It’s a women’s fitness community. Women can choose from four different goals: Get Lean, Get Toned, Get Strong and Get Focused. Each goal comes with drills for beginners, intermediate and advanced exercisers. The app is designed as a game to make it more exciting. You earn medals and awards as you move past levels.
“Nike’s vision is to get the country moving. Women have a real opportunity to influence their families and those around them. We want women to have that space, that freedom, to feel fiercely feminine. This is the first women-only Nike running club in Southeast Asia,” said Courtney Cole-Faso, country manager of Nike Philippines.
Mix your activities, said Purvis. Run, say, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and do NTC every Tuesday and Thursday. Strength training in addition to running can prevent the overuse that come from running.
“In running, you’re doing a forward and backward motion. Doing the NTC will help develop the smaller muscles overlooked from running because you’re training from different planes. You have lateral movements, turns and rotations so you’re strengthening your core, upper and lower body, your glutes. You end up strengthening so much more than what you work while running, which is just a linear movement,” Purvis said.
If you feel the need to do something more after your NTC workout, then there’s something you’re not doing right, she said. If you’re training effectively and efficiently, you don’t need more than one hour, unless you’re training for an event such as a full marathon or a triathlon. Forty-five minutes should be challenging enough, continued Purvis—enough for you to want to be done with the workout already.
For the average Jane who wants to improve on her running, Purvis recommends doing tracks on Monday, sprinting for 100, 200, 300 or 400 meters four or five times. Tuesday can be devoted to NTC, or a 30-minute workout combined with high-intensity interval training. Wednesday, attend a spinning or cycling class, or bike outdoors. Do another 45-minute NTC on Thursday. Friday go for a run, and Saturday do a long run.
“Give yourself one day a week of fully recovering to help prevent weight plateau and injuries,” Purvis said.
NTC encompasses six core moves: Push and Pull (such as push up and rowing), Rotation and Hinge (bending forward and rotating), and Squat and Lunge. You won’t be doing just arm curls, for instance. You will be doing squats with arm curls. Drills are somewhat similar to the Insanity Workout, except the NTC has less jumping and is not as high-impact, so it’s safer for the knees and much more well-rounded.
“These are full, multi-joint movements. Yes, there’s a bit of jumping here, too, or mountain climbing to get the heart rate up and burn calories, but these are functional strength movements. You get stronger from strengthening the muscles versus just pushing the muscles and doing a lot of plyometric training, which could lead to injuries much quicker,” Purvis said.
NTC improves your fitness level through a periodization type of training, and improves your posture over time. Improving your posture not only improves your breathing, but helps you get a stronger core, and prevents the shoulder and neck cramping experienced by some runners.
“For beginners, start easy and slow and build up from there. Don’t do anything too much too soon,” she said.
As you work out more, you also need to eat more to lose weight. It’s a common mistake, she said, that people exercise hard and eat less. Most women limit their calorie intake to 1,200 per day, even when doing high-impact exercises.
Not only does a low-calorie diet make you prone to weight plateaus, but your body also goes on starvation mode. Anything you eat will be stored as fat as your body begins to feed on your muscles. In short, you become a “skinny fat”—losing lean muscles and storing fat, and burning less calories.
“Eat yourself skinny. Eat a well-balanced diet. If you’re working out six times a week, you need to be eating 1,500 to 2,000 calories per day. You will still be losing weight. Just choose your nutrition wisely,” Purvis said.
Purvis has a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology and is certified by the American Council on Exercise. She is also a certified sports performance coach.