What has started as a way to lose weight has now turned into your passion.
You still clearly remember the day you started and the initial struggles that you surmounted. Now, you have a few marathons under your belt. And for that, you are proud of yourself.
But now, you want to take things to the next level and best your own personal records. But no matter how hard you try, you seem to have hit a plateau.
Why not consider strength training?
Why runners should lift weights
For decades, athletes, especially runners, have been told by coaches to avoid the weight room. Their belief was that in order to get better at their chosen activity, they should only train exclusively with that sport, in this case, running.
To date, you will still see runners training with variations of virtually the same training program: a combination of sprints, hill and tempo running, and even running on using personal home gym equipment such as a cycling machine or treadmill. Indeed, these different types of run contribute to one’s improvement in running.
However, as you ramp up your training, the more likely it is for you to injure yourself and sideline your training. Why?
The reason is simple: your body is not prepared for the escalating demands that come from increasing running intensity. If you are a novice runner, you can get away with ramping up your training. But as you get more experienced, you need to prepare your body for the intensified demands that you ask from it.
Strength training is not just for the rehabilitation of injured runners. Adding a strength training component to your program offers a few benefits.
For one, resistance training strengthens the muscles you commonly used for running. This allows you to increase your running intensity and improve your overall performance slowly. And the stronger your muscles are, the less likely are they to get injured. Strength training may also be used for enhancing form by targeting muscle imbalances, which cannot be achieved by just running.
How to integrate strength training with running
If you have trained exclusively with running, you have to modify your training schedule first. One critical thing to remember is that you cannot do resistance training for your lower body if you have scheduled hard running for the day.
Training for both on the same day will adversely affect your running performance. You can, however, train your legs and lower body on days that you will be running at moderate intensity.
Another essential thing to remember is that you should run first before you lift. So for example, if you are planning to lift weights on a given day and put in some time for running, you should run early in the day before proceeding to resistance training.
Each session should be spaced at least six hours. The fatigue from strength training typically lasts for six hours, and if you insist on running after, you will just be shortchanging yourself.
If you train daily, your program should look like this:
On the first day, focus on strengthening your upper body. The following day, do some tempo runs. On the third day, start with an easy run, rest, and then train your lower body later in the day. Reserve the fourth day for rest. The fifth day is for tempo runs, the sixth for easy runs, and the seventh for long runs.
Strength training exercise for runners
Another critical factor to remember when you are adding a resistance training component to your program is that you are training for strength, not mass or power. In short, you should train as a runner, not as a bodybuilder.
Here are a few resistance training exercises that you might want to include in your program.
Your upper body, especially your arms, plays a critical role in your running performance, not just your legs. The longer you run, your legs become fatigued. When that happens, you rely more on your arms to drive yourself forward.
For your upper body, you should target your chest, back, and shoulders. Exercises like bench press, pull-ups, inverted rows, and reverse flys target these muscles.
The core is not just comprised of the abs as most people are more likely to think. The core also includes your back muscles. Working in combination, the abs and back muscles provide stability to your spine and help strengthen the legs.
Instead of doing countless situps, perform planks, glue bridges, and supermans.
Training your legs is of the utmost importance as you depend on these to propel your whole body. For your legs and lower body, perform deadlifts, squats, lunges, and single-leg bridges.
Again, remember that you are strength training as a runner. Integrate these exercises and avoid adding accessory work like biceps curls which do not translate to improved running performance. But do remember to fuel your body and get adequate rest sleep and rest. Do this consistently, and you will notice a marked improvement in your running performance.