For many people, running and strength training are two activities that seem to be at odds with one another. On the one hand, running is a solitary activity where the participants draw little attention to themselves and their short shorts. On the other hand, weight lifting can be an intimidating endeavor for the uninitiated, one where a runner’s physique is often considered a disadvantage. There are many reasons runners should get themselves into the weight room, which are discussed below.
Many injuries occur because of muscular weaknesses and imbalances. For instance, runner’s knee is common among athletes who have an imbalance between their hamstring and quadriceps muscles. A contributing factor to shin splints appears to be calf weakness. In addition, many common running injuries can be attributed to weak hips. Fixing these problem areas in the weight room has been shown to prevent common overuse injuries from occurring.
The body burns more energy maintaining muscle than it does trying to hold onto fat. Therefore, incorporating strength work into your weekly routine will not only prevent injury and make you a stronger runner, but will increase your chances to lose stubborn body fat, as well.
When lifting weights, a runner’s muscles experience a level of fatigue that can only be replicated by a hard or long run. Muscles can be conditioned to this feeling and a runner can learn how to push past physical exhaustion by lifting for endurance with low weights and high repetition.
Weight lifting helps athletes develop explosive strength, especially for runners who do not have highly developed fast twitch muscle fibers. Strength training will also help runners fatigue these muscles less easily, leading to an improved kick at the end of a race.
Inefficiencies in form ultimately cost a runner time, especially in long distances. Working in the weight room helps improve form by strengthening hips and core for better posture, improving knee drive, and strengthening upper body for a more powerful arm swing. Each of these factors ultimately leads to better running economy for faster finishes.
Despite the muscle soreness that you may experience following a heavy lifting session, strength training can actually reduce the oxidative stress and inflammation that runners experience on a daily basis. By working muscles in a different way (e.g., avoiding the repetitive movements of distance running), antioxidant benefits are achieved.