I have written this topic a couple of times, you can find the earlier post here and here. But as the topic is important and there are still many people who feel lost at the gym and are not sure what to do. Here’s a little recap of why strength training is important and where to start.
Why to do strength training?
Strength training improves VO2max, it also has proved to improve the time of exhaustion level in maximal aerobic speed. Strength training can also help avoid injuries, especially those, which one is caused by weak muscles or imbalances. Many runners can improve their running times at a certain level, but then the progress stop. This is often due to energy-consuming running technique or weakness of some muscles, which can be fixed by strength training.
Leg joints take body weights over three times each step, which is huge stress not only for joints but bones and muscles too. Even though you won’t do thousand of weighted jumping squat a day, a small amount of weight training will strengthen muscles enough. Running is different everything else as there is a flying phase when both legs are off the ground. Whereas in strength training runners can give their leg to break from the impact, but still strengthing working muscles.
During running, people use mostly legs, but also arms and core muscles. A strong core is key for good running technique. We don’t often think our core while running, but it’s working the whole time to keep good posture. If core collapse or there is not enough strength the whole posture collapse, which doesn’t leave legs enough space to move properly. Regular injuries can be a sign of muscle weakness some part of the body.
Where to start?
Runners often keep gyms places for bodybuilders and get lost with all the equipment, feel embarrassed. Firstly, if you have ever seen any other sports’ athlete training in the gym, they do exercises which might look weird or funny, but those exercises are required. As well as bodybuilder do exercises which are totally different than other sports. Each person has to do what their sport and goals are required.
Secondly, don’t be ashamed, gyms are not anymore dark, sweaty, magnesium filled caves which are full of big guys. No one really cares what others do in the gym. There is all kind of people. Everyone starts somewhere. It’s same as with running, you probably weren’t as good as now, when you started.
How to do strength training?
There is not only one answer. Everything depends on how often do you have time to exercise. You don’t need to do a gym every day, 1-3 times a week is good too. Training division depends on how often do you train, what are your goals and what you need.
The easiest way is to start to look at your running technique, and if there’s something that doesn’t work, like muscle activation, collapsed posture. Find the weaknesses. Then decide how often you are able to do strength training, make a division. For example, if you are training 3 times a week, 1 x legs, 1 x core and upper body, 1 x whole body easier. Or 2 times a week, 1 x legs and 1 x core and upper body. Or mixing legs and core same training session, but doing different exercises each time. There are many opportunities, find something that works for you.
Choose the exercises, on the main muscles groups. As the point is to support running, we don’t need to focus shape all little muscles like a bodybuilder. Start with basic things like squats, lunges, deadlift, push-ups, etc. If you are not sure how to perform the exercises correct technique, ask help. Many gyms offer personal trainer services which are able to check technique and even make training programs for you. Don’t start with big weights, you can also do strength training home.
Don’t refuse to do strength training because you don’t like it or you don’t know what to do, especially if you want to come to a better runner.
If you have muscles weakness and constant injuries because of that or lack of muscle activation. Ask professional help, so you can get specific exercises which you need.