With runners, strength training often takes second fiddle to an extra run or track workout during a busy week, justified by the notion that more running makes a better runner.
Like anything else, running is a skill that needs to be developed over time. Form increases with repetition, which means the more strides a runner takes, the better adapted we will be come race day. But this notion fails to acknowledge one crucial aspect of running performance and efficiency — strength.
Runners are often accused of neglecting the gym. We’re told our “weak core” and “inactive glutes” will result pain and injuries, and that’s certainly true. In response, we began adding sets of the ever important planks and glute bridges.
While improving the core and strengthening the hips are critical, and these exercises do help us avoid getting injured when our body is forced to absorb 3-4 times a runner’s bodyweight with each footfall, we have to do more.
Building power strength helps us absorb force better when our feet crash into the pavement and helps us produce more force to propel ourself off the ground. And all of this happens in the blink of an eye.
To improve strength, runners should master bodyweight moves like the squats, push-ups, and single-leg squats. These exercises provide a good foundation of strength for the complex and demanding motions of running any distance.
To give us a good picture of why we need to be consistent with our strength training, let’s go over a few running/strength myths.
MYTH 1: Runners don’t need strength. To get stronger, run more.
TRUTH: Running, and the optimal balance of volume, intensity and pace-specific work, will always be the primary focus of a distance runner’s training program. It is what we love to do so it’s a good thing that’s what we should be spending most of our time on.
Strength training, however, presents a different physiological stimulus that includes many distinct benefits that running doesn’t provide, but which are crucial to health and optimal performance.
Strength training works two ways:
- It prevents injuries
- It enhances performance
Strength training provides the foundation for injury-free running and the ability to adhere to the regimen of mileage, speed and tempo work. Numerous studies have proven that strength training will enhance running performance. A 2013 review of research in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports showed that resistance training improves running economy and endurance muscle fibers. Other studies have linked weight training to better body composition and resting metabolic rates. As we age, strength training is particularly important, as recent studies have proven that running does not protect against the gradual loss of lean muscle tissue and, as we lose muscle, we also lose a larger percentage of our fast-twitch muscle fibers.
MYTH 2: The key area to work on is the core; running works all other areas.
TRUTH: Research indicates that upper-body, lower-body and midsection strength training all contribute to improved running performance. You should do exercises that involve all of the major muscle groups. Rather than specifically strengthening an area that you assume is weak, you are better off developing strength in all muscle groups, which will create balance and synergy.
MYTH 3: Lift with quick movements to work power and improve speed.
TRUTH: It’s more effective to lift and lower the weight slowly. Our strength training should involve slow deliberate movements.
A mantra for the distance runner is, “To become fast, lift slowly.”
If you move quickly, you incorporate momentum, unload your muscles and minimize muscle fiber involvement. Additionally, the faster you move, the greater the forces imposed on your joints and connective tissue and the greater the risk for injury.
Still need some convincing? Check out the many reasons why adding strength to our routine will help us improve at what we love the most.
Bottom line? Strength work does a runner’s body good. It gives us extra energy, faster recovery, faster race times, improved running economy, and less injuries! Don’t you think it’s worth a few extra minutes of your day?
Let’s get to work! We’ve got it all this month. Legs, arms, core…and check out today’s bonus exercise for our abductors and glutes!
Day 5 exercises:
- Plank – :60
- Squats – 20 x 3
- Push Ups – 20 x 2
- Tricep Overhead Extensions – 20 x 2
- Crunches – 20 x 2
- Leg Lifts – 20 x 2
- Burpees SUCK 🙂 – 10
- Wall Sit – :60
Bonus: SLOW Lateral Band Walk – 10 steps right/10 steps left x 2
This exercise is most effective with a resistance band, but if you don’t have one you can do it without, just get a little lower in your stance to add some bodyweight resistance.
Slow it down and take side deliberate steps. If you don’t feel it, squat down into a lower squat position.
Speed Work: Fartleks for the 5K to the Marathon – These look fun! I love how long these speed workouts are, but if you’re not up to speed work at these distances, cut back on some of the repeats. But if you really want to run a fast 5K, 10K, or Half or Full marathon, you have to be ready to put in the work…and the distance.
I post our speed work on Monday so you can plan for your week, not so you can do the workout on Monday. If you went long on Saturday or Sunday, you should be waiting till Tuesday or Wednesday to dial it up!
We all know the Monday rule…start your week out right with exercise Crew!