One can’t argue the many benefits that running can offer, both physically and mentally.
Like any sport, the way you get better at running, is running.
Participating in, and the practicing of your particular sport will help you become better and more efficient at it.
But like all things, too much of a good thing usually turns bad.
This is where most runners go wrong.
They typically believe the best way to improve their running is just to run more.
And some more.
When this happens you neglect the proper preparation your body needs for the intensity of your training and the repetitive stress of running.
This run, run, run mentality greatly increases your risk of injury, fatigue accumulates, aches and pains creep up, and performance suffers.
To improve your running performance and stay injury-free you need to take a holistic approach to your training.
The #1 mistake runners are making is not partaking in a running-specific strength training program.
Knee or foot pain?
IT band discomfort?
Low back stiffness?
Looking for a faster pace or improved race time?
These are all areas that can be greatly improved with a well-rounded, running specific, strength program.
On July 23rd, we will be ramping up our Strength Training for Runners Program
Let's get into the 6 benefits of strength training for runners!
#1 Injury Prevention
Research shows that nearly 50% of recreational runners will be injured in a given year.
Almost 75% of these injuries are due to overuse.
The good news is incorporating a strength training program can lower your risks.
It could also help with the nagging injuries (tendon, ligaments, muscles & bone) and chronic pain that comes with the repetitive stress of running, along with preventing future injuries.
Proper programming that incorporates unilateral (single-leg) training can help to correct structural imbalances such as quad and hip flexor dominance that lead to improper motor patterns and overuse.
An example of this would be how the non-dominant side of the body, which is typically weaker, could throw off your stride causing a variety of problems up and down the kinetic chain.
#2 Running Specific Warm-Ups
One of the biggest mistakes we see runners make is not properly warming up before running.
Typically runners lace up their running shoes and pound the pavement.
You feel every step of those first couple of miles. Things are stiff, achy, and often times painful.
You don't get much out of those first few miles other than a long, slow warm-up.
To start, this greatly increases your risk of injury.
Study after study has shown how performing a warm-up routine can drastically reduce running injuries especially at the feet, knee, hips, and low-back.
Here at DSC we put a premium on our warm-ups.
They are organized in a way that not only reduces your risk of injury, but prepare your body at every level to run at it's best.
We target areas that become overly stiff from running like your feet, calves, quads, hips, and low-back.
We work to activate or wake-up typically dormant muscles on runners like your glutes, hamstrings, and abs.
No more waiting 2 miles to feel good. Hit the road feeling great from the start!
#2 Core & Hip Strength
Strength training with a mix of the traditional lifts, such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, push-ups, and pull ups all offer a big bang for your buck when it comes to core strength.
We also add in a variety of targeted ab exercises like planks, rollouts, sit-ups, and crawls.
This is huge for runners as most runners develop overly stiff and dominant low-backs and weak abdominals.
Strong abs are crucial for you to hold your running posture and even greatly help with your breathing.
We also pay close attention to the hips.
Running is a quad and knee dominant sport, and it’s not uncommon to find the glutes and hamstrings “turned off” on a runner.
With strength training, we want to build up the backside to help with performance, allowing more force production through the ground.
And, tying back into #1, allowing more control over the femur, protecting the knees, hips, ankles, and lower back.
#3 Running Posture
With a focus on #2, this will also lead to a better running posture. It’s no secret here that maintaining smooth form and gait will keep you from fatiguing quickly, or early on in your run.
The correct, upright running posture keeps better alignment of various joints and takes stress off areas like your low-back, hip flexors, IT band and knees, while increasing performance.
Posture also plays a big role in endurance.
When your pelvis and rib cage properly align with each other through the work of your abs, glutes and hamstrings, you actually have more efficient gas exchange and you fatigue less quickly as your diaphragm is in a better position to work.
#4 Get Faster
Studies have shown that strength training no doubt will make you faster. It’s common to see pace quicken from the increase in leg strength which helps your body efficiently produce force and energy.
We increase this by getting stronger with a variety of lower-body exercises that are fantastic for runners like step-ups, single-leg deadlifts, split-squats, goblet squats, and deadlifts.
We also work a lot to improve the elasticity of your steps, making you more efficient as you run.
In other words, we do specific exercises (plyometric training) that target the elastic ability of your feet and calves. This allows you to use less energy on each stride!
With proper programming, research also suggests increased coordination, neural drive, and strength gains all playing a role in making the short and long distance runner faster.
#5 Lose Body Fat
Many folks will certainly lose weight and body fat when they first begin running.
But, this becomes harder as we actually burn less calories with our runs as we become more efficient.
Enter the plateau phase.
At the same time, the more we run the more muscle and strength we lose.
Here is where strength training can help to burn fat and increase strength and muscle, leading to better body composition and performance.
The less body-fat we carry and the more muscle we develop, the more calories we actually burn at rest.