Many people tend to think of lifting weights as the domain of body builders – people with a lot of muscle mass that runners would rather keep off (after all, more weight slows you down). The truth is, however, if you are a runner then you should definitely strength train to improve your running. Whether you are new to running or a seasoned professional or whether you are running out in the neighborhood or preparing for a running race, strength training can not only help you perform better, it can reduce your risk of serious injury
Below are four simple reasons you should train your muscles before putting on your best shoes for plantar fasciitis and heading out to run.
Reason 1 – Preventing Injury
The number of injuries among runners is particularly high – even among athletes. Some estimates put the number of runners who experience some form of injury at over two-thirds. One of the primary causes of injury among runners is not having the strength or muscle endurance necessary to stay consistent at a high pace. If you strength train to improve your running, you will increase your ability to stay at top speed for longer, since your muscles will be able to bear the resistance better.
Reason 2 – Increase Endurance
When you run, you are making your muscles work – particularly your thighs and legs. By working out and strengthening these muscles, you increase the amount of work they can do and strain they can handle. Having good endurance is an important key to preventing injury and winning races. Endurance is especially important if you are a marathon runner. By working your muscles, particularly your lower body, you will find your next run more enjoyable and less taxing.
Reason 3 – Increase Explosive Power
Whether you are doing a dash or on the final lap of a tight race, it is important to be able to be able to push forward with your thighs explosively. Unfortunately, if you do not have the strength to do this, it may be either impossible or cause injury. By training your muscles, you increase their ability to provide the power and resistance to stress necessary to use the explosive power necessary for sprinting.
Reason 4 – Improve Your Overall Health
Okay, this one isn’t specific to runners – but it is important all the same. Even if you don’t think it is necessary to strength train to improve your running, science has proven time and again that strength training improves your health and lowers the risk of death due to any cause. One of the primary reasons for this is that working out increases your internal body temperature. Heat drives metabolism. By keeping your metabolism active, you allow thousands of biological functions to work properly. A defective metabolism is linked to obesity, heart disease, cancer, and several other health problems. By engaging in strength training, you are not only helping yourself become a better runner, you are also improving your ability to stay healthy.
As you can see, there are several reasons why you should strength train to improve your running. Other reasons may include: becoming stronger, becoming faster, increasing cardiovascular health, etc. The era of runners not lifting weights is a by-gone one. Unfortunately many of the myths surrounding lifting weights as it relates to runners still persist to this day.
The fact is, runners get injured at an alarmingly frequent rate and this is in large part (sometimes solely) due to a lack of strength training. So, what exactly is strength training anyways? Well, we can break it down as follows:
- simple training (circuit)
- traditional (weight lifting, such as at a gym)
- explosive training
Each type of training has its own benefits. Doing a round of circuit training will be best for new runners who are looking to improve their aerobic endurance and wish to be able to keep a steady heart rate during the course of a high impact race. Hitting the gym and pumping iron improves muscle motion and coordination – obviously important for any runner. However, it is explosive strength training which really gives a runner the edge. If you are going to strength train to improve your running, perhaps the most important route to go is with explosive exercises. These allow you to run faster, longer, and with more power – all while reducing greatly your risk of being seriously injured.