Welcome to Day 5 of our Devoted New Year series! Today we are talking about strength training! These posts are brought to you by Meridith creator of Devoted Training; a 52 week faith-based training journal, and myself. We hope you enjoy!
While we are all making resolutions and setting goals for the new year, let’s all add strength training to the list. Strength training adds a component of power and speed, as well as helping prevent injuries for runners of all distances. The longer the distance, the more strength training benefits become apparent. Have you ever watched runners at the end of a marathon as their shoulders start to drop and their entire gait changes? Running economy improves with a stronger body, and this is the golden ticket–getting you to the finish line faster and with less injuries.
Don’t be intimidated by strength training for running. The most important thing is to do something consistently. There are a few principles to help guide you to the most effective approach. As you get more comfortable with a set of strength moves, you can add variations and change the stimulus.
Functional movement is more beneficial than isolated movements. Running is dynamic and involves many muscle groups, so it makes sense that strength training should mimic this movement. For instance, it is more beneficial to perform a kettlebell swing than to do a hamstring curl on a machine at the gym.
Consider the different planes that certain moves hit and incorporate them in your routine. For instance, front lunge, side lunge, back lunge all strengthen the legs and hips in different planes to prevent injury and make you a stronger runner. Also, make sure to apply proper form and technique so that your body is able to recruit the optimal muscle fibers for heavier and heavier weights over time.
If you are a beginner at strength work, completing sets of 10-12 reps with a moderate weight is a good place to start. This is called the adaptation phase and should be built for about a year before increasing to heavier weights. This phase makes you less injury prone and helps improve your endurance.
As your body becomes stronger and your bones and ligaments strengthen, you can start to add weights so that you are completing 4-6 reps with heavy weights. This should only be attempted if you have been doing strength work for at least a year. Lifting heavy weights helps improve power and speed, and it also makes tendons and ligaments stronger.
Higher intensity strength work with plyometrics is also a great way to improve power and speed, but it should only be added after a foundation of strength training has been established to prevent injuries. Many athletes will periodize their strength training phases to have plyometrics occur about 3/4 into a training cycle.
The timing of strength work matters. If you lift before your run, the metabolic cascade creates more of an endurance benefit, whereas, if you lift after your run, you will adapt more of a strength benefit. Both scenarios have their benefits, but strength work should primarily occur after a run, preferably on a workout day so that easy days can be used for recovery. Ideally, try to fit in at least two strength sessions a week.
A sample strength routine is below:
- Donkey toes
- Single leg lunge (Bulgarian split squat)
- Push-ups (tons of variations—so good for you!)
- Single leg deadlift
- Overhead press
- Hip thrust
- Tricep dips
- Side Plank (can add lateral raise)
- Bridge knee drives (hold a bridge and alternate driving one knee up)
These strength moves can probably be done in your living room with a set of dumbbells. You can complete them as a circuit by doing three sets of #1-3, 4-6, and 7-9. Once you have a general idea of moves that you like, you can start to change up the stimulus and play around with different combinations. As race day gets closer, stick to strength moves that are familiar so that you don’t go into race day sore from a killer new strength circuit. And if this looks like a lot to add to your plate, just focus on doing something on a consistent basis because something is better than nothing. It can only make you a stronger runner, after all.
If you are looking for someone to help guide you more directly in strength training, check out Sara’s strength coach, Theresa Welch.
What are your favorite strength moves? Would you skip a run to get in a strength session?