The importance of strength training for runners

The importance of strength training for runners

Squats for preventing running injuries.

Now that it’s coming in to the warmer weather, just like the swarms of insects, flying ants, and honey bees, the recreational runners are all going to be out in force and pounding the pavements and parkruns through the summer.

And good on them (p.s. I’m one of them!) Running is a super way of getting fit, getting healthy and getting your headspace right. Plus its free! What’s not to like?

Injuries, Thats whats not to like. You see, with the hoards of recreational runners now hitting the pavements, you also see countless amounts of knee braces and compression socks in order to combat the little niggles that people are picking up. Runners often get confused as to why they pick up these injuries, and even more bemused when they can’t shake them off.

But you see, the thing about running, if you really want to take it serious, is that simply running miles after miles to increase aerobic fitness, and stamina, is not the best way, or most efficient way for you to train. Important, yes. The be all and end all? No.

Probably the most overlooked part of any running regime is that of mobility and strength. And by mobility, I don’t mean stretching your calves up against a tree for 5 minutes before you run. But what the hell does strength have to do with running?

Strength training and its importance in running.

When people here strength training they jump to the thoughts of bodybuilders in the gym lifting ungodly amounts of weight on a bar. But in reality, strength training is that of any movement done against resistance. If you lift a 2kg weight, guess what, you’re strength training! And this is beneficial for a number of reasons. Namely, building strong durable muscles bones and ligaments/tendons to remain injury free, and to build neuromuscular endurance and efficiency. In fact, research has shown that adding strength work to your running program can increase your V02 max output, or simply put your body’s ability you use oxygen efficiently. This is because your nervous system is able to determine between the fatigued and more durable muscle fibers and call on the ones that are more efficient at using up oxygen and more resistant to fatigue.

(anecdotal evidence time shhhhh don’t tell the evidenced based therapy brigade)

A few years back, I was doing crossfit, for at least 8 months. I never ran once in that time. I signed up to an adventure race and needed to get out running. I went out and ran 10k in 50 minutes. That’s having never run further than 5km and at a pretty slow pace. Makes ya think doesn’t it?

So what strength training should I be doing?

Well, good question. Running is a multi faceted discipline and as such, a whole body approach should be taken. It doesn’t have to be complicated, or expensive! All you need is your body weight, and perhaps a couple of exercise bands.

  • Lower body work such as deadlifts, squats, calf raises, single leg work and coordination drills would all be very important.

  • Core work is integral to good running posture and to be able to control the movement of the body. Pallof press, dead bug, hollow holds are all good options

  • Upper body work is also important, as arm drive is also an integral part of running. Pushups, inverted rows, exercise band flys.

So there you have it. We will touch on mobility and its importance for another day, but other than that get out and get stronger. Your body (and run times) will thank you for it!