Strength Training for Runners

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Many of us will have set big goals for 2021 - some of which could involve running.

Perhaps a goal to pick up running again, complete a 5km run for the first time, or maybe it is to get faster or run further than you ever have before. Whatever that goal may be, one's ability to achieve it relies heavily on the ability to run consistently and sustainably over time. Let’s take a look at one of the best ways to achieve sustainable running - strength training.

Runners get injured a lot - fact. A review of scientific literature looking into the incidence of running related injuries in long distance runners reports lower extremity running injuries ranging from 19.4% to 73.9% (Van Gent, 2007). So don’t get down if you start to feel a niggle - they are very common amongst runners and you’re not alone. The good news is, there are many things to be done to keep runners pain free, faster and longer distances.

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Don’t get me wrong, I get it - runners want to run, not be in the gym, but hear me out, when we look at the science behind strength training, there are a multitude of benefits for both injury reduction and increasing running economy and performance. A recent systematic review (Blagrove et al., 2018), looking into the scientific evidence behind strength training in runners, highlighted that it resulted in an increase in running economy by 2 - 8% an increase in time trial performance by 2 - 5%. Side note - if you’re wondering what running economy is - it’s defined as the aerobic demands of running, or the relationship between oxygen consumption and running speed. In short - how economical you running is - the take away being it will help you run faster for longer.

In terms of injury prevention - a study in 2014 (Lauerson, 2014) highlighted that strength training has the ability to reduce overuse injuries by up to 50% which is incredible. It’s largely due to increasing the tissues (bone, muscle, ligament) ability to withstand the load that running places on the body.

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What should running strength look like?

A common misconception we see when treating clients at The Running Room is the belief that runners should do low weight and high repetitions when they are completing strength training to compliment their running. Scientific literature has shown greater performance benefits with higher load and explosive training compared to strength endurance training. This style of training only needs to be completed 2-3 times per week for these incredible benefits. Better yet, this sustainable approach will leave you more time to run!

At The Running Room, we have created ‘The Running Room Fundamentals’, a simple yet effective strength training program for runners that will keep you running at your best & injury free. It incorporates; heavy compound movements such as deadlifts and squats, single leg exercises such as single leg squats and lunges, and the calf complex (focusing on the muscle group which is the most neglected by runners but the most important). The Running Room Fundamentals is a great starting point for any runner.

I leave you with a few tips, tricks and take-aways from The Running Room to keep you running for longer and stronger:

- Regular strength training has multiple benefits for runners
- Strength training has the ability to reduce muscle risks as well as increase running performance
- Runners should complete strength training 2-3 x per week
- Strength training for runners should include higher loads and lowers repetitions (3 sets of 8-12 repetitions as a general guide)
- This should involve double leg compound exercises, single leg exercises and always calf strengthening.
The Running Room Fundamentals are a great starting point.

Happy Running!

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