Why runners should do strength and conditioning workouts
By Andrew Greenfield, RUNUR Athlete
Runners, all of us, regardless of frequency, experience, and distance covered, love to run.
Otherwise we wouldn’t do it would we.
There’s lots of reasons why we lace up our running shoes and head out the door such as motivation, friendship, therapy, and physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing, to name but a few.
We venture out in all types of weather all year round and sometimes hop on the treadmill.
Most, if not all of us, would like to run longer, perhaps faster, and most certainly remain injury free while doing so.
So what can we add to our repertoire to help accomplish this?
Strength and conditioning training!
We’re motivated enough to run, but sometimes the willingness to strength train just isn’t there. If you run often enough, it’s absolutely crucial to either do a home workout or go to a gym to strengthen your body. The social aspect of seeing others at the gym and the range of equipment available can be enough motivation in itself however, if you opt to train at home you don’t actually need much.
Some dumbells, your body weight, and a bit of floor space will do.
So what actually is it?
Strength and conditioning is sometimes also referred to as weight lifting, resistance training, or weight training.
Whatever you want to call it, I’d describe it as something that should involve combinations of exercises that help to increase your power and strength by placing resistance on the targeted muscle group. This will in turn, over time, allow you to perform for longer.
What are the benefits?
They are many and varied and include :
Helps your mental strength, gives you better bone density, helps prevent injuries, optimises form, and efficiency, and could improve your metabolism.
Mental strength – If you’ve trained for a specific distance and you’re fit at some point you may doubt yourself during the event itself. It’s entirely normal. It happens. This is when your mental game comes into play.
When your mind is telling you to stop, with all the running workouts and strength training you’ve already done, you can bat those thoughts away and push on.
Bone density – Want to live a long, healthy life – you’ll need strong bones. Controlled stress placed on muscles and bones during a workout will transfer into stronger muscles and bones over time. This will help you run longer as your body is stronger.
Prevents injuries – If your body is stronger, which it will be if you add strength and conditioning workouts to your training week, it will be able to withstand the longer periods of strain you place on it by running. There’s a theme here – you can run longer!
Form, and efficiency – As the targeted muscle groups get stronger (we’re talking core, hamstrings, quads, glutes, and calves here) your posture will improve, you’ll be able to get up and down hills easier, and run for longer and faster before getting tired. None of this is easy, but eventually it will be easier than it was before you started your strength training.
Metabolism – Strength and conditioning workouts help to improve your lean body mass – i.e. less fat on your body. The more lean mass you have, the more calories you use during exercise. Your body therefore will be more streamlined for your favourite activity – running!
Exercises to consider when strength training for running :
The list is long however, these will work the muscle groups to help build running strength:
Squats, Deadlifts, Lunges, Step ups, Calf raises, Push ups, Planks, Glute bridges, Crunches, and Flutter kicks.
Ideally two to three times a week which should include upper body as well.
If you can only manage one session then do it. It’s better than none at all.
Ideally, do the sessions on your easy run days so that you can truly benefit from your rest days.
You don’t want to do too much as that could be counter productive.
Some runners do strength and conditioning training before their easy run, and others after. It really depends how you feel on the day. That’s the general rule I apply with this.
If your budget can stretch to it, it’s worth consulting with a personal trainer who can write a program specific for your needs and demonstrate how to do the exercises properly.
As ever, whatever you decide to do, and wherever you decide to strength train, always wear comfortable workout clothing.
Do drink some electrolytes before your workout, and have a protein shake during / after to help with hydration and repair.
Make your body stronger to make your mind stronger so you can comfortably run stronger.
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Andrew Greenfield, RUNUR Athlete
You don’t have to go fast, you just have to go!
a.k.a @GreenfieldRunner (instagram)
Andrew is a middle-aged ultramarathon runner based in Quebec, Canada.
A confirmed mid-pack finisher, he runs for fun.
He is a proud military veteran.