Although I ran track in middle school all the way to high school, I never considered myself a runner until my senior year of college when I picked up the sport for fun (shocking, I know). I loved to run at my own pace, listening to my current favorite song on repeat, and just spend time outside. Around 3 years ago, I gathered up the courage to sign up for a half marathon—something that my teenage self wouldn’t have believed.
I’ve completed 3 more half marathons since then, and now I finally understand why people say they’re “addicted” to running. Yes, finishing 21.1 kilometers requires you to build up kilometers and leg strength over time, and you get to scratch something pretty epic off your bucket list.
But when I found out I got into a major Marathon earlier this year, I knew it was going to be a lot different than my usual half marathons. My running schedule jumped from2-3 fairly easy runs a week, to a rigorous training plan with five runs that had my legs yelling at me “WTF”. And that’s where my relationship with lunges comes into the story.
Although I haven’t incorporated lunges into my workouts before, the lower-body exercise has been known to strengthen several leg muscles that are crucial when running—specifically your hamstrings, quads, and calves. Additionally, lunges are an amazing way to sculpt a peach-shaped booty and rock-hard abs. Done! So when asked to challenge myself to perform lunges on a daily basis for two weeks straight, I jumped at the opportunity.
I met up with New York City physical therapist and co-founder of MOTIVNY, David Jou, to help decide which lunge would be most efficient for my training. We decided on the effective four-point lunge. Not only does this require a traditional front lunge and back lunge, it also calls for a side lunge that crosses over to a curtsy lunge. Doing the forward, back, side lunge counted as one rep. I was instructed to complete 3 sets of 10 reps on one side and 3 sets on the alternative side, totaling to 60 lunges.
“The point of doing this lunge is to create balance between muscle groups surrounding your joints and to take pressure off of them while you’re increasing kilometres and speed,” Jou told me. “Expect to not just feel stronger but also more fluid and controlled in your movements.” That’s what I was truly hoping for. With starting my marathon training and my lunges schedule simultaneously, I knew that my body was in for a surprise, I only hoped the pay off would be worth it. Here’s what I learned during these two weeks.
IT WAS HARD ON SOME DAYS, AND EASY ON OTHER DAYS
The first day I did my lunge sets I was a little wobbly, and I lost my balance a few times but it was surprisingly easier than I had expected. I could have just been stronger than I realized, but for someone to had never practiced lunges this much, I was kind of proud that it came a little easy to me.
I spoke too soon, a few days later I felt extremely sore after a long run Since the side lunges require a pause in the middle when crossing over, I felt every sore muscle in my legs while performing my sets.
Those first few days were a huge reflection of the two-week experiment as a whole. Some days I felt no pain, and other days I was feeling the gain. It didn’t necessary get easier or harder as time went on, but it just depended on how I was feeling in that particular moment.
MY PREVIOUS WORKOUTS AFFECTED THE NEXT DAY
I felt the lunges a lot more on days when I had worked out the day before, and the level of soreness depended on the intensity. Like I mentioned before, my marathon training has me running five days a week right out of the gate, so not only was I getting used to doing 60 lunges a day but also running several more days than what I’m used to.
Sometimes it was fairly easy to predict when my legs would feel sore during my lunges, like the day right after doing my longest run of the week. But for my shorter kilometers or rest days, I noticed that when I allowed a solid 24 hours to pass before doing my lunges again, the soreness was minimal to none compared to when I would wait less time. And sometimes they’d throw me off and be sore when I wasn’t planning on it.
LUNGES ADDED A GREAT PRE-RUN WARM-UP
I tried to experiment doing my lunges right before or after workouts. The one thing I discovered, at least for myself, is that doing lunges before running ended up being the most effective. It served as a warm-up stretch that allowed my muscles to loosen before hitting the pavement.
When I tried doing lunges after running, it was much more of a struggle because my leg muscles had already put in work and needed rest more than anything at that point. I feel like it was difficult to maintain proper form as I made my way off and then back on the step, and it felt like I wasn’t getting the most out of my stretches.
MY RESULTS WEREN’T ALL IN PHYSICAL ASPECTS
My results went beyond just the physical stuff, like stronger legs for easier runs. I’ve never been a huge stretcher, so knowing I was putting in the extra time to build up muscle and protect myself from injury helped me believe I was getting stronger. It’s one thing to actually become more fit over time, but there’s also something to be said for the feeling of confidence you get in the process. It certainly helped me!
LUNGES ARE FOR ANYONE, NOT JUST RUNNERS
Whether it’s for an end goal like a race or just for self-improvement, I recommend this particular type of lunge to anyone out there looking to build endurance and leg strength. Yes, it specifically works the muscles that are used for running and can be extremely beneficial to a range of athletic performers. This routine can still help build a stronger you, and work wonders for boosting your health (and confidence). You might find yourself pleasantly surprised with the results!