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Strength Training: A No-No or Resounding Yes for Runners?

Full-body strength is important for maintaining a healthy and long running career. Because of this, specific strength training programs can be beneficial for runners of all ages and abilities. In my personal experience, as a long-time competitive trail and ultrarunner, strength training has been a necessary part of my athletic training plan. Especially if you suffer from back, ankle, or hip issues, working on your strength is crucial. 

Benefits of Strength Training for Runners

Injury Prevention 

Strengthening your muscles and joints can help prevent common running injuries. In addition, stronger, balanced muscle groups provide better support to joints and bones, reducing the risk of overuse injuries.

Improved Running Economy

Strength training can enhance running economy by improving muscle coordination and efficiency. This can lead to better performance and endurance during runs. Focused strength work coupled with cadence work can help you see huge improvements in your running economy. 

Muscle Imbalance Correction

Image by Scott Webb

Running is a repetitive-motion sport, meaning that it primarily engages certain muscle groups, often leading to muscle imbalances. Strength training can address these imbalances by targeting specific muscle groups that may be underdeveloped through running alone. You’ll be surprised at how weak your hamstrings probably are compared to your quads, once you start strength training in the gym. 

Increased Power and Speed

Building strength can help increase power and speed during fast or hilly running. Whether you’re looking to improve your race performance or simply want to be able to run up that hill in the local park, power and speed will be beneficial. 

Enhanced Core Strength

A strong core is essential for maintaining proper running form and stability. Strength training exercises that target the core can improve posture and reduce fatigue during long runs. This is particularly important if you suffer from lower back or hip pain. 

Bone Density

Weight-bearing exercises associated with strength training, particularly squats and lunges, can help increase bone density. Increasing and maintaining bone density and health is especially important for female runners, who may be at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.

Balancing Your Training

Balance is a crucial part of any training plan. If you’re adding strength training on top of a running plan, make sure to keep the balance so you are pushing yourself but not overtraining. 

Specificity

A strength training program should be tailored to your individual goals and needs. For example, if you are training for a flat 5k, you should be focused more on fast-twitch muscles and hip strength, but if your goal is a trail 10k, you’ll want to work more on stability and full leg strength. 

Periodization

Integrate strength training into your overall training plan with appropriate periodization. This involves adjusting the volume and intensity of strength training throughout the training cycle to avoid overtraining. For example, a lot of runners focus more heavily on strength training during the winter or “off season” when they are running less. 

Recovery

Allow sufficient time for recovery between strength training sessions and hard runs. Overtraining can lead to fatigue and an increased risk of injury. It’s tempting to schedule strength training on easy or off days, but I’d encourage you to avoid this. A good rule of thumb is to do your strength training on the same day as your hard running workouts. I’ve found that doing the running workout first and then following it with strength training not only helps me stretch and move a bit, but also makes sure that I don’t push myself too hard on my easy and off days. 

Come up With a Plan

Image by Jordan Opel

I’d recommend consulting with a fitness professional or physiotherapist to develop a personalized strength training plan that addresses your specific needs. Especially if you’ve struggled with running-related or overuse injuries, making sure your strength program is tailored to you is critical. 

Strength training is a beneficial addition to any runner’s routine, helping to improve performance, prevent injuries, and enhance overall fitness. In addition, depending on how you choose to strength train, it can be a fun way to do something different, build community, and push yourself to try new things. For example, a lot of the strength training I do personally comes in the form of power yoga and rock climbing. Both of these disciplines require full-body, and especially core strength, as well as mental concentration, which all translate well to running.

The post Strength Training: A No-No or Resounding Yes for Runners? appeared first on Outdoors with Bear Grylls.

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