It’s spring here in Arizona. I can tell because my morning drive has a lot fewer colorful license plates… and there are a lot more people out running in the neighborhood… although strength training for runners isn’t necessarily at the forefront of anyone’s mind.
Running is one of the most popular forms of exercise. Do you know why?
There is no special equipment required to get started. You just lace up your shoes and start running.
But, for those who are just picking up running, or those who have significantly increased their mileage with the warmer weather, it can be costly and painful.
The sudden increase in running can put a lot of stress on the body that it wasn’t prepared for.
Running shouldn’t be the only type of exercise that you perform. There is one main component missing from most runners’ programming: strength training.
I hear the hesitancy in your head already. “What do you mean strength training, I am training to run! I don’t want to become big and bulky by lifting weights!”. I get it. But the truth is that by throwing around a few weights in the iron jungle or in the comfort of your own home won’t make you big and bulky. Those who look big and bulky have been training for that body for years… or they just have the right genes. But likely, they have been training for years.
Just like you won’t be running the Boston Marathon after your first run, you won’t get big and bulky by lifting your first weight.
But why do strength training if you are a runner?
1. Improve Your Running Performance
First and foremost, strength training can help you become faster. A stronger muscle can lead to more power and speed output. This makes your step rate faster. Secondly, it can make your muscled more efficient. The old saying is true… that the stronger you are, the harder your are to kill. Your muscles will be much more efficient in providing you with the energy you need to complete your race, fun run, or whatever other goals you may have.
2. Prevent Injuries
Running is a series of one-legged jumps. Have you ever tried to continuously jump on one leg for 5, 10, or 30 minutes? It is tough and your body has to be ready to accept the load of your weight, create a force to propel you forward, and then land and catch your body weight again. The stronger your muscles, joints, ligaments, and bones are, the harder it is for them to fail and become painful. Strength training decreases the risk of injuries such as shin splints, stress fractures, and plantar fasciitis just to name a few.
A well rounded strength training program can prevent injuries from doing everyday activities as well, When you focus on full body strength, your risk of injury from climbing stairs or getting in and out of bed decreases significantly. Running, specificallydistance running, can be deemed a more quad dominant form of exercise. Focusing on strengthening the posterior side of the leg will help you perform your other activities of daily life efficiently and with a reduced risk of pain.
3. Bone Density
Did I mention that running and strength training can help increase the size of your bones? Here’s your physiology lesson of the day: your bones continually break down and build up throughout the day. That is normal. When we lose bone size, it is because our bones break down faster than our bodies can build it back up. One way to help stimulate the building of bone is through weight bearing activities such as strength training. The ‘bone builders’ in our bodies respond very favorably to forces put on them during strength training.
4. Strength Training Is Good For Your Health
It can improve your cardiovascular health, reduce blood pressure, and increase your insulin sensitivity. It improves your mood, decreases risk of depression and anxiety, and mitigates many other physical and mental impairments. Strength training can also help you maintain a healthy weight and increase your metabolic rate (the burning of calories). In turn, this reduces the risk of obesity. Do you get the point? Strength training is good for your overall health!
Common Reasons Runners Don’t Want To Strength Train
“Running will make me bulky”: This was addressed above. Strength training does not make you bulky unless you want it to. Not everyone who lifts wants to be a body builder. There are different training strategies to get bulky.
“Strength training will make me slower”: It does not weigh you down. It will actually make your more energy efficient and able to go longer and faster.
“I don’t have time to add strength training”. Do you have time to rehab an injury? I am not saying that you will get injured just because you don’t lift. There is no causal link between not lifting and getting injured. However there is a very strong correlation between them. I would much rather see you out there crushing your running goals than see you coming to physical therapy and telling me about how your friends are crushing their goals.
Strength training is an important aspect of training that a lot of runners miss. Whether you are a recreational runner who only picks it up when the temperature lands between 70 and 80 degrees, or you are a competitive runner preparing for your 10th Boston Marathon, strength training is for you. It will help your running economy, which helps you hit your goals. And more importantly, it improves your overall health.
Runners: Start Your Strength Training
If you are having trouble figuring out what your strength training should look like, reach out to us HERE!
We would be happy to help you get on the right track to injury prevention!
If you are struggling with training because of your injuries, request a visit HERE so that we can help you get back to running!