Strength training for runners: a guide to getting started

By combining running and strength training, you can achieve faster times and better stamina. We explain why you need to spend at least one workout a week improving your muscular strength.

If you love running, you may be tempted to get out on the road (or the treadmill) more to improve your strength and stamina. However, one of the most effective ways to increase your athletic performance is actually weight training. A regular gym session as part of your weekly fitness schedule can make you stronger, faster and possibly help to avoid injuries.

WHAT’S THE BEST STRENGTH TRAINING REGIME?

Weight exercises that target your core, lower back, glutes and leg muscles will improve your performance, and we recommend a balanced routine to maintain overall fitness. A gym workout can replace one of your runs or be a bonus to your weekly running plan.

THE CORRECT APPROACH TO STRENGTH TRAINING FOR RUNNERS

When working with weights or resistance training, you may be tempted to keep breaks between sets fairly short, say 30 seconds or a minute, to maintain the elevated heart rate and feeling of working hard you get when running.

However, unlike running, which uses energy aerobically, strength training’s energy relies on ATP-PC (adenosine triphosphate and phosphocreatine). This energy system concentrates on high intensity, powerful exercises and only lasts between 10 and 15 seconds. What’s more, ATP-PC levels need at least two to three minutes to reach optimum levels again so take your time between sets to recover.

HIGH REPS OR HIGH WEIGHTS?

You’re already building muscle endurance when you’re running, so you will not see much improvement with low weight/high rep resistance training. Instead, aim for 6 to 10 repetitions at a weight that you can safely handle but feels heavy. By working out with heavier weights, you will maximise your strength gains – but don’t worry about “bulking up”, this just won’t happen.

DON’T FORGET YOUR RECOVERY DAYS

You may be tempted to schedule a strength day on one of your non-running days. However, we recommend that you combine training on one day – a submaximal run in the morning coupled with strength training later in the day. This gives a good balance to your hard and soft workout days and allows your body to recover.

ENJOY THE RUN!

With your increased strength, you’ll be able to achieve faster times and greater endurance on your runs. So don’t forget the gym session as part of your complete running workout routine.

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