Why Should Runners Strength Train?


Newsflash!  I don’t strength train enough.

If you’ve been following along with our monthly workout calendars, you’ve probably noticed a trend.  We like to advocate more than just cardio around these parts.  Now, I’ll be the first to admit this…I really don’t like strength training.  I am definitely a “cardio” girl and I like to measure the success of my workout by the size of the sweat puddle on the floor when I’m finished.  I’ll also be the first to admit that this is probably why I’m plagued with so many little nagging injuries.  Hard to face but it’s true.  When we developed this month’s fitness calendar, we tried to incorporate both cardio (in the form of Couch to 5k training) and body weight strength training that ANYONE could do.  (Yes, I know some of the moves are hard, they are supposed to be.)

So why should runners (and really ANYONE) strength train?

For runners, adding the right type of strength training can lead to fewer injuries and improved speed.  Running and only running really does very little in the form of adding muscle strength.  Sure, your cardiovascular and respiratory systems will be rock stars but you won’t notice a big difference in muscle tone.  If you are a newbie runner, you’ll notice some increased strength initially but this will begin to level off as your body adapts to the new activity.  Prior to workouts designed to increase speed, it’s important to prepare the muscles for the increased workload.  This can be accomplished through strength training which involves compound movements (ie, more than just a single muscle) and mimic the physical acts in running.  Great examples are squats, deadlifts, pull-ups and chin-ups.

Many runners think they need to go to a gym and lift heavy, but this really isn’t the case.  Bodyweight exercises can be just as effective and can be completed in the comfort of your own home.  In addition to the exercises mentioned above, you could add planks, lunges, pistol squats (one legged squats), and push-ups.  Just make sure you are warmed up before adding your strength work.  Completing the exercises after an easy run or spin on your bike is a great idea.

Have you ever been told your running-related injuries are due to a weak butt? *Raises hand* Sadly, this is the cause of so many injuries in areas no where near the butt because in our society we spend so many hours of the day sitting. Our hips and glutes get lazy because they don’t have to do much to keep you upright in a chair.  When we run, we need the hip and butt muscles to stabilize our bodies when we run.  If they are weak, smaller muscles lower in the chain are forced to pick up the slack, leading to injuries.  For a great list of hip and glute exercises, I recommend this progressive video series from Runner’s World.  I did the beginner pedestal poses and Myrtle routine this past weekend and I assure you they are NO JOKE.

What strength training move are you going to incorporate into your training plan next week?