Friday, January 24, 2014

Benefits Of Strength Training For Runners - Guest Post by Anja Koschak

Benefits Of Strength Training For Runners

Every runner-no matter if professional or recreational- is always interested in running faster, longer and stronger, but the way to get there is not by simply increasing the distance of your runs (which is a misconception many endurance athletes hold).

If you want to become a more efficient, more successful runner it will certainly work in your favor to incorporate strength training into your weekly workout regimen. Before you jump at my throat with complaints that you are not looking to get “buff”, please settle down and let me assure you that you will not become the next Mr. or Mrs. Universe due to incorporating strength training to your endurance training. What will happen, though, is that you become a more complete, a more well-rounded athlete with far fewer chances of getting injured. Sounds good? Well, lets get into the benefits of strength training for runners in a little more detail, so you will no longer be afraid of the weight room after reading this article.

 1)    Increase in Speed

Although this might sound counter-intuitive it has been proven over and over again that strength training will make you faster due to increased leg strength and better use of energy and oxygen during your runs.

A study proved when put in different groups (1. just running, 2. just strength training, 3. running and strength training combined and 4. a control group), male sports students who combined running and endurance training improved their performance in a 4k time trial by 8.6% and increased their V’O2 max by 10.4%.

The best kind of strength training to increase your running speed is heavy lifting targeting your lower body. Make sure you consult with a personal trainer or a savvy coach before you start a heavy lifting regimen! Good form is KEY.

2)    Body Fat Reduction

In order to become the best, most efficient runner you can be, your body composition should be large percentage of lean muscle mass vs. low body fat. Contrary to popular belief, (moderate) running alone (or any sort of endurance training for that matter) does NOT help you decrease body fat – unless you are running frequently at very high intensity. If that is not you, you need to start strength training in order to build lean muscle and decrease body fat.

3)    Injury Prevention

We all want to feel our best when we run and the last thing you want to happen is to sustain an injury that could side-line you for unknown amounts of time. Many runners suffer from muscle imbalances, joint discomfort, muscle weaknesses or even chronic pain, which all pose a hindrance in the enjoyability and efficiency of their runs. Sounds like something you are experiencing? If so, strength training will help you balance out your muscles, increase your joint stability and help you build a better base for your body, which means that you will be protected from getting injured all too easily.

4)    Better running economy

A study proved that maximal strength training improves running economy. Well-trained runners were divided into an intervention group and a control group. The intervention group performed half-squats 3x a week for 8 weeks in addition to their regular endurance training regimen. The control group continued their usual endurance training throughout said time frame. Results show that the strength training group was able to increase their time to exhaustion at Maximal Aerobic Speed by 21.3%! Note that body weight stayed the same in both groups (no bulking up for you!).

5)    Better Recovery

Strength training will improve your insulin sensitivity, which is extremely important in order to speed up your metabolism and increase your energy levels as well as prevent you from developing diabetes. (Insulin sensitivity is the relationship between how much insulin needs to be produced in order to deposit a certain amount of glucose.) Due to better metabolism and increased energy levels, your recovery from long runs will be much easier because your body will be able to convert metabolic waste into energy.

Now that we have covered some important aspects of why it is essential for any type of runner (long distance, ultra distance, short distance) to incorporate strength training to their workouts, you might be concerned with time management and how to fit in strength training on top of your running workload. I get it. Chances are, you have a job, you have a family, you already spend a good amount of hours running and the thought of having to fit in weight training at the gym seems daunting if not impossible.
Do not panic! Here is the great news: Experts have agreed that not a lot of time in the gym is required in order to see significant results for your running performance. The common census is that just 30 minutes of 8-12 exercises 2-3 times a week will yield great improvement for your running efforts. While lifting heavier weights will increase your strength and in consequence make you faster, some runners prefer to keep their strength training to all calisthenics (body weight exercises), which in most cases also helps you avoid muscle imbalances and maintain good form during your runs.

Either way you look at it, you cannot deny the great benefits of strength training for endurance athletes- especially runners. I sincerely hope you will make the adjustments needed in order to fit in some strength training in addition to your runs. Be better, be faster, be stronger and always ENJOY the journey!

About the author:

Anja Koschak is a personal trainer and health coach in New York City. 

For her full bio, her blog, exercise videos, pictures and contact visit her website


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