For many running is attractive because of its simplicity. It doesn’t require much money or kit and it gets you outside and away from the gym. That’s why people are often disappointed to hear that strength training for runners is key if they want to run faster and further.
They shouldn’t be though. Strength training doesn’t have to be a chore, and once you’ve introduced it the benefits are plentiful. Here are just a few to whet your appetite.
Stronger Muscles and Joints
Let’s start with the obvious. Running, especially road running, is a high-impact activity that puts strain on your body and increases your risk of injury. Research has shown that running injuries are commonly caused by imbalances in muscle strength. So? Incorporate strength training into your routine and you’ll find your muscles and joints get stronger and more stable, reducing the risk of injury. Strength training will even help your bone health, offsetting the decline in bone mass that happens to us all as we age.
You’re also going to be a more powerful runner the stronger you are. That means you’ll run faster. Bring on the PBs.
Better Running Economy
We’ve all been there. You’ve been running for a while, you feel fatigued and your form goes to hell. Your head has dropped, shoulders are hunched, arms are flailing. You know it’s bad for you, but your muscles are exhausted. Now imagine you’ve been strength training for a few months. Your core and back keeps you pulled upright, your legs and arms keep driving mile after mile and your head is up. Strength training is sounding pretty good now, right?
It isn’t just good form either. Strength training is going to boost your endurance and allow you to keep running for longer without getting tired or cramping up.
Improved Flexibility and Mobility
If you want to run well then your body needs to be able to move through the full range of motion that each stride requires. Nail mobility and flexibility and you’ll ensure that tight muscles and joints don’t hold you back. If the word ‘tight’ made you wince it’s probably because you know it’s also a one way road to injury. Strengthen your muscles and joints and your flexibility and mobility are going to improve too.
But we know what you’re thinking. People who lift weights are less flexible right? Not true. Sitting for long periods of tome, hunching over a desk and sitting in a chair that doesn’t support your back is more likely to cause inflexibility and poor mobility (thanks WFH). If this is ringing alarm bells with you then make sure you’re adding mobility exercises to your routine as well. Actually, we should all be doing that.
Start Strength Training
Now you know some of the top reasons why strength training for runners is so important, it’s time to integrate it into your routine. By the way, strength training is any kind of exercise that uses resistance, whether that’s your own bodyweight, a resistance band or weights. So start small if you’re unsure and try a bodyweight workout a couple of times a week. We’d suggest squats and lunges for your legs, plank for your core and press-ups to target your upper body.
Try doing a workout on a day when you’re not running, but make sure you’re getting those rest days in and prioritising recovery too.