Marathon training, running tips

Why runners should include strength training

When I begin working with a new client I always ask them about the ancillary training components they are currently doing, including strength training. (Read my previous post on Ancillary Components in your run training) Most of the time, these athletes are doing very little to none.  This is a large area for improvement and it doesn’t have to be too time consuming or difficult to build in.

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As I have mentioned many times in previous posts, when you are training you are applying a stress/stimulus to the body. It is a controlled amount of micro-damage.  When the body recovers it adapts, or super-compensates so that it is stronger than before the damage occurred.  This is similar to what happens when you develop a scar.  Strength training applies a different stimulus to your body, meaning you receive a different kind of physiological benefit.  Making your training more well rounded and you a stronger and more resilient runner.

Strength training is an important component in a solid, comprehensive training plan for both injury prevention and performance reasons.  Many runners have the misconception that strength training involves bulking up, gaining weight which will then make them slower.  This is simply, misguided information.

Strength training is first, a key component to injury prevention. Think Pre-Hab verse Re-hab. Building in strength training can address improper running mechanics and muscle imbalances that could lead to injuries in a training cycle.  Running involves a lot of repetitive motion, so imbalances and weaknesses get exploited over and over again in every single run.

img_1009Strength training can also help improve speed and running economy, for many reasons.  Running is a complex repetitive motion.  A collaborative movement of muscles that involve pushing the body off the ground, through  a repetitive force applied to the ground. Simply put, the more force applied to the ground, the more the body is propelled forward. By increasing strength, you can simply increase the applied force during the running motion.

Along with the increased force, the body becomes more economical during strength training.  Meaning, the body can more effectively utilize oxygen.  An increase in running economy is a key factor for endurance training.  If you want to learn more about running economy check out my previous post, Understanding Running Economy

Many people get into running to loose weight, and strength training can be a great way to lower total body fat percentages.  Runners who rely on cutting calories and running will often see a decline in performance and other negative factors like increase illness and fatigue.  Often times, they also see little to no results toward their weight loss goal, or the weight loss only sees short term results.  Building in strength training and adequately fueling can be a much better, long term approach, to healthy weight loss.  Strength training will help with preventing muscle degradation and also help with the bodies ability to utilize fuel more efficiently.

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Adding in strength training is similar to beginning a new running plan. It doesn’t need to be complicated but should be challenging.  As you continue to improve, the training should progress so that you continue to progress in your results.  Many of my runners will start with a progression of body weight strength training components that eventually leads into more complex exercises that progresses to basic lifting exercises and then into compound lifts.

I have had the pleasure of working with some great strength coaches through my training. A couple of them had very different approaches on how to implement strength training alongside a run training plan.  My biggest take away is more is not always better. I believe strongly that ancillary training should NOT negatively impact the run training that is the foundation of your training program.  Begin slowly and utilize training that compliments, not competes with your running.

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