STRENGTH TRAINING FOR RUNNERS
Running is the foundation for many sports and daily activities, therefore becoming relatively good at it will have its benefits. If you're a recreational runner or a competitive runner performance can always enhanced.
Run More to Improve Your Running Abilities?
Having a regular running routine will improve cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance. This may occur when someone is new to running or an individual increases their frequency of runs per week. But at some point consistently increasing the amount you run may lead to potential injuries.
The concept of strength training to improve your running ability may sound foreign, however, if you are serious about running whether that be competitively or recreationally, strength training deserves its place within your schedule.
Running economy is typically defined as the energy demand for a given velocity of submaximal running. Strength training allows the muscles to utilise more elastic energy and reduce the amount of energy wasted in braking forces (1). Put simply, our bodies become more efficient and the amount of energy it once took to run a certain speed now takes less energy.
Lift Heavy Five Times a Week?
When you think of strength training you may think of extremely heavy weights being lifted or powerlifting, but when your goal is to improve your running performance that is not the case. Strength training and running go hand in hand and strength training doesn't have to consume your training program but complement it.
If strength training does not exist in your current training routine then start with 1 x strength training session per week. When the amount of strength training you perform increases, allow for adequate recovery by not performing them back to back. Depending on your running schedule, 3 strength sessions a week will be sufficient for most individuals, and going above 3 will most likely cause too much interference with your running and hindering your recovery.
A 2008 study concluded that the heavy resistance training for 8 weeks increased running economy and time to exhaustion at maximal aerobic speed, with no changes in the subjects bodyweight (2). Additionally, a 2016 meta-analysis (combines the results of multiple scientific studies) also showed that after 8-12 weeks of resistance training accompanied by plyometric training 2-3 times a week, is an appropriate strategy to improve the running economy of highly trained middle and long distance runners (3).
Improving performance is a welcome feeling for anyone, but without longevity performances do not matter. Due to the repetitive nature of running and the forces it applies to the body, keeping it as flawless as possible is the ideal scenario. Being flawless without any issues is unrealistic but we can help make our ability to run more efficient.
Complementing running with strength training has been shown to enhance neuromuscular control (unconscious trained response of a muscle to a signal regarding dynamic joint stability) and also increase muscle activation in the quadriceps (4).
If the body is prepared to handle running consistently, then there is a reduced risk of an injury occurring. Being proactive with injury prevention work will always trump being reactive with injury rehabilitation.
Read‘Rule Out Running Pain’ for more information
A Runners Strength Training Starter Pack
The below exercises can be performed at the gym or at home.
Single Leg RDL Reach