10 reasons for runners to strength train
If you’re looking to improve as a runner, you’re going to need to do more than just run when you train. Strength training reduces your risk of injury while improving speed, endurance and efficiency, but if you’re still in doubt, here are a few more reasons to start strong...
1. Strengthen your muscles
Running more will make you a stronger runner – but only up to a point. Once you’ve made your initial progress, your muscles will adapt to the act of running and further strength improvements will only come if you continue to up the pace or up distance – which is a recipe for injury. What your muscles need, at this point, is some extracurricular activity in the form of strength training. Classic compound movements such as squats will provide full-body strength and improve your muscles’ ability to withstand the impact of running.
2. Strengthen your joints
If you’re new to running, or just new to the kind of structured training plan you’re following in the build-up to your 10K, it’s not just your muscles that are going to be placed under greater stress; your joints, too, will feel the force of the increased mileage. By strengthening the muscles around your joints, strength training improves joint stability and general joint health. Resistance training – with weights or your own bodyweight – has also been shown to build bone density, making you less prone to impact-related fractures and breaks.
3. Improve your speed
With the right exercises – compound lifts and explosive moves like box jumps, burpees and squat jumps – you’ll improve the amount of power you’re able to generate when running at speed, which is particularly important when you try to pick up the pace towards the end of your 10K. Strength training improves the force you’re able to generate with each stride, as well as your neuromuscular efficiency: the ability of your nervous system to properly recruit the muscle fibres required for all-out effort.
4. Boost your endurance
In the simplest sense, strength training reduces your risk of injury and allows you to train consistently, which will lead to inevitable endurance improvements. More specifically, though, in strengthening your muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments – in other words, your full-body resilience – you’ll find that you’re able to run further on legs that feel fresher and are less prone to seizing up.
5. Concentrate on your core
The importance of a strong core – the muscles around your trunk and pelvis – cannot be overstated. Core strength is central to proper form and efficient running: it’s what allows you ‘run tall’ even when fatigued, keep your legs turning over at an effective rate, maintain a proper knee drive, and even breathe with greater efficiency. Add a core routine into your weekly schedule, two or three times a week, and you will be able to run strong even when the 10K gets tough towards the closing kilometres.
6. Strengthen your resilience
Strength training can build mental, as well as physical, resilience, because just as PBs and longer distances breed confidence, lifting more weight, completing more reps, and making it through particularly tough strength sessions will massively boost your self-belief. When you make improvements in the gym (or wherever you strength train) you can clearly see yourself becoming stronger, which will help you take a positive approach to upcoming events like the Vitality London 10,000. Check out our article on mental strategies for your 10K for more on this aspect of running.
7. Set new targets
Following on from that, setting yourself non-running-related targets – you might want to lift a certain weight, or complete a certain amount of sets within an allotted time – makes it possible to keep achieving, which will reinforce your belief in yourself. No matter your running ability, once you reach a certain level you will plateau. That has the potential to leave you feeling a bit flat, but if you’re reaching new heights in the gym you can continue to reap the psychological reward of hitting your goals. Our Run Happy and Healthy Plan also has ideas for celebrating achievements big and small, and is ideal if you’re new to running.
8. Mix things up
The other mental benefit of strength training is the fact that it adds some variety to your weekly routine. If all you do is run, there is a danger you might get a little tired of it! Adding another form of exercise to the mix will allow you to shift your focus onto another area of training and give your mind some space away from running.
9. Train with others
Believe it or not, the running bug hasn’t caught up with everyone; some people just don’t enjoy running. In your circle of friends, you probably know someone who refuses to run, but that same person might be a lot more open to the idea of going to the gym. In that sense, strength training opens up new opportunities for socialising with old friends, as well meeting new people.
10. Boost your metabolism
If you started running because you wanted to shift a few pounds, and have been left a little disappointed by the results, it could be because in order to run well, you need to fuel up correctly – running alone might not be creating the calorie deficit needed for weight loss. The solution is not to eat less – your health, as well as your running, will suffer – but to lift more. Strength training builds muscle, and muscle revs up your metabolism to help you become a fitter, stronger runner.