Strength training for runners is a crucial part of any workout plan aiding in improved performance and injury prevention. Read on to find out why you can’t neglect strength training.
Running is great – you put on a pair of shoes and hit the road whenever you’re in the mood to get in a workout. It requires minimal equipment, and can be done almost anywhere. There are no breaks in training even while you’re travelling. While we do understand why you’d choose running over any other form of exercise, we are here to remind you that if you are not cross-training, you are likely to be more susceptible to injuries. Studies have shown that those who cross-trained and performed strength training were usually stronger, healthier and more successful athletes who were constantly reaching new levels of performance. Do you wish to join their ranks? Then we highly recommend you add weight training to your routine.
What exactly is strength training?
Strength training is a form of exercise that is usually completed against resistance. It can be a resistance band, an added weight, or your own body weight. The point is to maintain muscle mass which can help improve your metabolic rate and functional capacity along with your athletic performance.
Strength training for runners might be neglected because runners would rather get miles under their belt than spend hours at the gym. The key is to balance it out – two days of strength training is all that you need to maintain a healthy running streak. With the help of strength training you will reduce your injury risk by correcting the muscle imbalances while improving your muscle activation too.
Why is strength training a good idea for runners?
Whether you wish to run fast or lose weight, strength training can help you achieve your goals as a runner. Let’s look at all the benefits in detail.
Strength training aids weight loss
Strength training will help you gain lean muscle mass which will increase your metabolism in the long run. What this means is that you will burn calories both at rest and during the workouts. If you are at a weight loss plateau you are going to find strength training beneficial.
Strength training leads to better muscle activation
Are you using all your muscles? Strength training is a great way to get all your muscles to work, especially those that you have been neglecting. From isolation exercises to explosive movements and multi-joint exercises, strength training ensures that all the right muscles are contributing to your run. Studies show that explosive strength training makes your 5K faster by improving your muscle power and your running economy.
Strength training prevents injury
Strength training will improve your joint muscle and ligament health, because over time runners do tend to get hurt due to structural weakness. As you run, the force of almost 3 times your body weight is placed through each leg. If you have been running for a long time, you can imagine how much pressure your muscles have been under – this muscle overuse can lead to injury, and strength training is exactly what you need to help strengthen these muscles.
Strengthening the hips and glutes is one of the best injury prevention measures a runner can take. Strength training also builds core strength which is particularly important for distance runners.
Strength training improves running economy
Strength training can improve your movement patterns, which means that you will waste less energy in wrong forms and increase your speed in the long run. Research has shown that trained distance runners showed improvement of up to 8% in their running economy after a period of resistance training.
Along with this, you will also see that it will take you longer to tire. Did you know? Athletes increase their time to exhaustion by 21% just by adding a squat program to their training. You’ll also run faster, use oxygen more efficiently at submaximal speeds and have better neuromuscular efficiency.
If you are new to strength training, it’s okay if you wish to start with bodyweight exercises as long as you maintain good form. Over the weeks you will see that your strength is slowly increasing as you reach for heavier weights. If you want, you can also introduce more resistance with resistance bands before you get to the weights.