strength training: an essential part of a runner’s regimen

We all know strength training is essential to toning and sculpting an appealing physique.  It builds muscles, decreases body fat and increases lean body mass.  But why does any of this matter if you’re a runner?

“When you build your muscles you are able to go longer distances and you don’t get as fatigued.” – Kaitlyn Mello, a runner currently training for the Nike Women’s Half-Marathon.

She’s right. Strength training consistently (2-3 times a week) increases your running economy (how efficiently your body uses oxygen).  The stronger your muscles are, the less effort running will require.  Less effort means less energy burned at a given speed or distance, allowing you to run farther and faster.

In addition to improved performance, strength training dramatically reduces the risk of injury to runners.  Running has a way of pinpointing weakness in the body.  The goal of a runner should be to target these particular muscle groups, creating balance from head to toe.

The trick is to start small.  Utilize the weight of your own body, performing basic exercises like squats, lunges, pushups and sit-ups.  Once this becomes easy, begin to incorporate weights (they should be heavy enough to challenge you, but not so heavy as to induce strain).  Ideally one should work their way to exercises that require unilateral movements, as these will most closely mimic the biomechanics of running.

Burn 60 Trainer Anna Renderer demonstrates key strengthening exercises for runners here.

Sources:

Holland, Tom. “Strength Training for Runners”. Active. The Active Network, Inc. Web. 28 August 2013.

Thapoung, Kenny. “Run Your Fastest Race Yet”. Women’s Health Blog. 6 August 2013. Rodale, Inc.  Web. 28 August 2013.