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Iowa cross-country runner improves through upper body training

BY JALYN SOUCHEK | OCTOBER 11, 2012 6:30 AM

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Senior Cameron Reiger doesn’t appear to be a cross-country runner at first glance. Instead, he looks to have a body built like a wrestler. He’s 5-7, 130 pounds among teammates who are taller and leaner.

That wasn’t the case a year ago.

“I was this little guy that really didn’t have any muscle definition — strictly endurance, no speed whatsoever,” he said.

The 2011 cross-country season came to an end, however, and then-junior Reiger had an epiphany. He didn’t want to be the little guy anymore.

“I just made the decision one day that I didn’t want to be small,” he said. “I wanted to be strong.”
Reiger wanted to increase his muscle definition in his upper body and core without bulking up.

Instead of hitting the weights, he did body weight exercises such as pushups, pull-ups, and sit-ups.
Head coach Larry Wieczorek agreed it’s not about bulking up.

“You’re not going to look like a football linebacker,” he said. “You don’t want to be bigger and carry a lot of weight.”

The transformation Reiger was about to make wasn’t an easy one. When he first began, he had to start out small, only doing about 50 pushups a day.

Simply sticking with his routine and being consistent was one of his biggest hurdles to overcome.

“I felt pretty sore, my body wasn’t used to it,” he said. “In the beginning, not being used to the workload … You get sore, and you don’t want to continue.”

Now, almost a year later, Reiger does anywhere from 500 to 1,000 pushups a day and considers it an integral part of his training. The results have been evident in his performances and during his indoor season when he had a mini-breakthrough.

“I’m not traditionally known to have a lot of speed or a finishing kick,” he said. “That strength really helped me’f I felt stronger during races.”

Improvements to his upper body allowed Reiger to have an effortless arm carry, better posture, and a stronger finish.

After seeing Reiger’s results, Wieczorek approached him and asked him to share his secrets of success with the younger harriers. When Reiger first began his college career, he was what Wieczorek would call a developmental athlete.

Freshman Nate Ferree, a current developmental athlete, is showing good signs, but Wieczorek wanted Cameron to show him the way to continue making those improvements.

“Cameron, to do what he did, I see him being a very successful person in life because of his habits,” Wieczorek said. “He just did it on his own ambition.”

Reiger’s advice to the younger runner is to not be afraid to start small. He tells them not to be afraid to start with only 10 pushups a day because the training is a process.

“They have an increased desire to do extra core workouts, and they see if it works for,” he said. “If they continue to do it and work at it, they can have breakthrough I had,” he said.

Taking up that advice, Ferree has implemented working on his upper body into his daily routine.

Already, he’s seen results. According to Ferree, his sprints have been faster and he can use his arms more effectively.

“The most challenging thing is finding desire to do it, doing it on my own, forcing myself and to keep telling myself it will help,” he said. “It’s a lot of mental toughness.”


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