Resistance training is more and more commonly becoming a part of endurance athletes training regime. For those of us that are time limited or aging (gracefully of course); strength training, flexibility and agility becomes an even more important part of one’s training…especially for runners. Running can be hard on the joints if not done properly, and it’s hard to improve technique if there are imbalances in the body or a lack of time to get out there and run, run, run!
Resistance training is no longer just about looking good and increasing muscle size; with purpose it will decrease chances of injury, and increases our ability to run faster and for longer. The key though is to train properly, it’s not about training harder, it’s about training smarter.
Decreasing chance of injury
The likelihood of getting injured as a runner is high due to the loads on the body that running produces. By eliminating muscle imbalances in the body, we decrease our chance of injury by having the ability to move with proper technique and form.
Training movements rather than muscles is the key to unlocking our potential in running. Our body always moves as one unit and we need to train it that way.
Stretching tight areas of the body to eliminate restriction that can affect form is also important. Commonly endurance athletes follow a generic stretch routine that doesn’t focus on their particular tight areas. Restriction in a particular area of the body can also lead to injury.
If our muscles are not strong enough to support the activity we are doing our joints will end up taking more load than they deserve. Strength training exercises improve the strength of the muscles around our joints so that they are protected. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, “exercise helps keep the joints flexible…and the muscles around the joints strong.” Weight bearing exercise helps promote strong bones and healthy cartilage, both of which support your joints.
Flexibility or lack of it can also make joints unhappy by pulling the joint out of alignment. If this goes on for long enough pain in the joint may follow and the body’s whole kinetic chain will be negatively affected.
Increasing speed and endurance
As a runner training in the gym functionally will improve your run economy, efficiency and power output. Training functionally is about training movement patterns and training the body in a way that is functional to what we are going to do outside the gym. Core strength plays a key role as it connects our body so we move as one unit.
If our core muscles are strong (including our lower abdominals, back, shoulders, hips and gluts), then we have a greater ability to propel ourself forward quicker and for longer. That last kick at the end of a race or feeling of holding a pace until the end of a run can be greatly attributed to core strength (and that doesn’t mean more situps!).
Often we think that speed work is the key to getting faster, but unfortunately it often leads to injury and time out from running. Introducing speed work into training programmes is ideally done once one has a solid base of run fitness, and a strong muscular foundation.
Happy training! – the team at FORM Fitness