How to Add Strength Training to Your Running Routine
As runners, often, we neglect performing other activities that can benefit us in favor of doing what we love – running. However, including one to two days per week of strength training can improve your running ability in many ways. As with any secondary activity, the focus should be on how strength training can benefit your running. With that in mind, the following is a guide to adding strength training to your running routine.
Benefits of strength training for runners
Adding strength training to your routine can directly affect your running ability by increasing endurance and speed. Improving your overall strength boosts the connection between your brain and body. As a result, you will become not only more agile but able to take on longer or faster runs.
Besides the quantitative changes in your running ability, you’ll become less susceptible to injury. Building strength in the muscles that keep you stable will result in a more effective running stride. Stronger supportive muscles such as your core, hamstrings, and glutes will result in less effort to run faster or longer. When you don’t train these supporting muscles, there’s a greater chance of resulting injury.
How to add strength training to your running routine in a safe, effective way
To add strength to your running routine, you will need to consider when and how much strength work you will complete. In addition, you will need to decide your primary focus on the strength work. Is your goal to improve leg strength, core muscles, or your less-worked upper body?
The great thing about strength training is that the strength program is built around your goals like running. Whether your focus is on hitting the trails for the afternoon or maximizing your intervals on the track, a small amount of time dedicated to strength exercises can go a long way. Take our 30 Day Ab Challenge for example. This is challenge requires no equipment and just 12-minutes per day. The result of this challenge will be not only a newly formed habit toward cross-training but also a stronger core and more efficient running stride.
Focus on muscular endurance gains.
Chances are, if you’re building a strength training routine for long-distance running, your program won’t include getting building muscle mass. Instead, runners will find it most effective to focus on building muscular endurance.
Aim for two to four sets of 10-20 reps for most exercises, which means you’ll be lifting (or squatting, pushing, pulling, etc.) much less than your max. And for some activities (i.e., push-ups, lunges, etc.), you won’t need anything more than your body weight. The goal is to make the weight challenging enough that after 8-12 reps, you feel you are pushing yourself. That’s the correct balance you need to do to improve running endurance and speed while also decreasing your chances of injury.
Focusing on lower weight but higher reps can also improve recovery time between runs. Although your strength program will likely make you sore the first few days, over time, the benefits of this new habit will pay off. As you maintain a consistent focus on developing your strength and your running efficiency improves, you’ll notice less fatigue and soreness in the days after a hard or long effort.
Find a frequency that works for you.
One of the most complex parts of strength training for runners is finding the time to include it in your routine. When your main focus is running, carving out a part of your day for strength training can be difficult especially, if your program is inflexible. As we all know, life takes over sometimes, and it can be hard even to keep up your running habit.
The great thing about strength training for runners is that you can almost always find time to work it around your busy schedule. The most optimal frequency to strength train is 2-3 times per week. However, you will still see benefits from working out as little as once a week.
You can also find ways to incorporate strength training directly into your runs. Some people opt to run for 5-10 minutes, do some strength training, and then continue running. While you may want to find time in the gym to lift actual weights, we encourage runners to find a strength training routine that doesn’t involve equipment, like the exercises included in our 30 Day Strength Challenge. Exercises like squats, planks, push-ups, bridges, bicycles, and lunges will all enhance your running ability and can be performed almost anywhere!
Focus on form
The single most significant way to “fail” a strength training program is to ignore form! As athletes, it can be challenging to take a step back and focus on something seemingly trivial. Still, improper form is more likely to cause injury than overuse or accidents. Going into a strength training program with a focus on proper form for every exercise will help you not only prevent damage but add that extra power to your running.
Your running form might be perfect, but take the time to watch yourself in the mirror performing any strength exercise. You don’t have to work with a personal trainer to pick out the wrong form in your movements. Many times watching for an arched back or inappropriate muscular compensation can indicate improper form. If you catch yourself twisting, performing a move too quickly, or pushing through a twinge that doesn’t feel right, take a step back and adjust.
If you find yourself struggling to maintain or understand proper strength training, consider working with a personal trainer for 30-minutes every 2-3 weeks. A good trainer can provide you with the visual cues to maintain proper form throughout an exercise move. They can also show you modifications to exercises to make them easier or more challenging when needed.
Improper form can result from a variety of different things. Many times it’s from overreaching on weight and pushing your body too hard. Sometimes it can also be from a lack of knowledge in the exercise you’re performing. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break mid-exercise to google it! It’s much better to stop, learn, and come back, rather than push through an exercise if you feel you might have improper form.
Summary on Adding Strength Training
Adding strength training to your running routine can significantly increase your speed or endurance while providing other benefits such as injury prevention. Considerations when doing so include safeguarding your body during the exercise and safeguarding your runs afterward using proper form and appropriate weights. With this guide to strength training for runners, anyone can incorporate strength training into their running routine and start seeing longer, faster, injury-free runs.
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