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Why Strength Training is Vital for Runners

Author: Carol Housaman, ACE certified Personal Trainer, Multiple Ironman Finisher and Coach

Runners are a tough bunch. From an outside perspective, it might seem like subjecting yourself to ever increasing milage is the method to becoming the best runner. However, running by itself is not enough to reach your potential. Strength training plays a crucial part in injury prevention and developing a running form that is as strong as it is healthy. 

So what are the best runners and athletes doing that helps them not only achieve their potential, but maintain their health in the process? According to a recent review published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine more than 90% of runners experience some sort of sports-related injury during their career. Many of those injuries are the result of muscle weaknesses that are exacerbated over time due to the impacts of running long miles.

While many runners hate to admit it, some of the best run training involves doing other workouts that don’t involve running. Strength training exercises is just one of these training methods that will aid in building a healthy running routine. Many runners tend to avoid strength training exercises, but the benefits of developing your core and leg strength are what separate runners that reach their potential, from those that get injured along the way.

Some runners avoid the weight room completely. Many are afraid of bulking up, which would slow them down. However, when a properly designed program (like Formula Train) is added, weight training will not only make the body more resilient to the stresses of running, but can also improve running performance.

All runners, regardless of ability or age, can reap huge benefits from one or two strength training workouts per week. Strength training should be added into any runner’s routine regardless of age or running ability. In fact, hitting the weights once or twice a week becomes more critical with age, as muscle mass and bone density will decrease by as much as 10% per decade. Some of the benefits to strength training include:

Benefits of Strength Training for Runners

  1. Injury Prevention  – Strengthening tendons, ligaments and weak muscles will increase your chances of staying healthy and running longer.
  2. Muscular Power – Stronger legs will produce force quickly for a faster run and also a stronger finishing kick at the end of a race.  Who doesn’t want to be faster?
  3. Neuromuscular Coordination – Did you know that you can train the pathways between the brain and muscles for a higher running economy? That means being able to run faster with less effort.  How great is that?

 

Choosing a Running Strength Program

Runners should always look for a program that offers functional strength to complement their run training. A well designed program should target the following areas:

Core Training

Exercises with a high degree of stabilization.  Every running step requires a solid foundation. Strengthening the core and all of the muscles that support the spine, will make the abdominals and back stronger. The stronger the core, the more solid the runner will be when they hit the ground. Exercises such as superman lifts, glute bridges, planks and plank variations, will keep the core strong!

Lower Body

Try to find workouts with knee dominant hip and leg pushing exercises. Generally speaking, squatting is almost a must have for any workout as it will engage the glutes, the powerhouse for running. Single leg exercises are also a vital component. Single leg squats and deadlifts will help to develop hamstring and quad strength in each leg. Hip hinge movements such as kettlebell swings will also strengthen hip flexor muscles for a more powerful stride. Runners spend a lot of time moving in one direction: forward. That being the case, adding lateral movements will help to strengthen and stabilize the hips and muscles around the knees. 

Plyometrics

Any kind of jumping exercises will help develop explosive power. Jump squats and box jumps are a great addition to a strength training routine.

Upper Body

Arm drive is a big part of running. With each step a runner takes, the shoulders are briefly pulled into a hunched posture. Exercises that improve and strengthen the upper back, chest and shoulders will keep the runner running tall. Upper body strength can be broken down into pushing and pulling exercises such as rowing, vertical chin up, overhead pressing and push up exercises.  

 

Where Can a Runner Find This Type of Class

At FRC, our goal is to help you find your formula. The formula is each runner’s unique mix of training, recovery, assessment and educational services that leads them to crush their performance goals. That’s why we call ourselves “Formula” Running.

If you’re a runner or an endurance athlete and are looking for a strength training class, check out our Formula Train classes. Formula Train is our 60-minute class designed to focus on full-body conditioning (with an emphasis on the needs of runners) that highlights strength, stability and power to maximize overall fitness and performance. These group classes focus on the aforementioned strengthening elements and are featured Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays. As with all of our group classes, these classes are facilitated by a coach that specializes in running strength.

 

The FRC Difference

Regular strength training classes are wonderful for an overall workout, however they may focus on isolated muscles, like biceps or just back exercises. While these are great exercises for toning, they do not focus on the elements that build better runners and endurance athletes.