The research suggesting that a strategic, deliberate approach to strength training improves running performance is overwhelming.
Let’s look at a couple of quick examples. Three groups in this study were pitted against one another. One group performed endurance (running) training only, another did strength training only, and one group did both strength training and running. The group that combined running and strength training had the best performance—and rather conclusively too, with being capable of running to exhaustion nearly 14% longer than everyone else.
Here’s an extremely detailed study that indicates even highly trained runners benefit from strength training in addition to their normal running routine, and here’s one showing that female athletes specifically also enjoy improved performance.
It’s worth noting that the benefits of strength training also extend to both cycling and swimming, which is good news for the triathletes in the audience. Quick note: if you’re considering doing your first triathlon sometime soon, we encourage you to check out this post on our sister site for Rocky Mountain Multisport, which is located inside our store.
In any event, the point is that we could pretty much show you one study after another all day long proving that strength training can offer you huge benefits for your running performance. With track season starting, now is the best time to begin, especially considering that strength training can reduce running injuries. And, as the title of this post implies, it’s important that you do so intelligently, since not all workouts are made the same.
Let’s dig into this topic together, beginning with a first important step:
First Things First: Be Specific About Your Goals
Odds are you’re thinking, “Well, my goals are to be better at running.”
But what does that really mean?
Getting better at running really implies a whole bunch of different things, like increasing your stamina and aerobic capacity. You’ll also want to increase your leg strength, because that’s going to help you run faster for longer periods of time. Or how about flexibility and balance? Those are important factors too.
Think of your body like an intricate machine. To move it faster, all of its components must be working in harmony. However, everyone’s body is different, which is why…
Why You Need a Strategic Approach to Working Out to Gain the Most Benefit
It’s likely that you’ll benefit from strength training 2-3 times per week. Avoid strength training and endurance training on the same day—space them out to give your body time to recover and heal.
Your workout routine is up to you entirely, but a home workout (i.e., without much equipment) might include 2-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions with exercises including dumbbell overhead presses and deadlifts, air squats, front planks, and hand release push ups.
However, if you feel that you suffer in one area more than others, you can start to modify your strength training regimen to improve specific things.
While the specifics are beyond the scope of this post and your best bet is to explain your unique goals to a professional trainer, here’s an example: suppose that you find your legs getting tired, but you aren’t necessarily winded yet. That’s a good indication that your aerobic capacity is fine but your leg strength needs improvement. Knowing this, you can modify your routine accordingly. In other words, be strategic about your strength training choices.
But Doesn’t Working Out Too Much Reduce Running Performance? What Gives?
You’re right. Working out too much or, more accurately, working out without a running-focused strategy can and will reduce running performance. But in a moment you’ll learn why it’s not entirely likely.
A large degree of this concern comes from runners worried about packing on muscle mass. Since muscle mass contributes to overall body weight, the reasoning is that too much working out will ultimately slow them down.
This is true, however, there’s an important point to make here: “strength training” isn’t synonymous with “bodybuilding.” Hypertrophy is the scientific word for increasing the size of your muscles.
Increasing strength—the amount of force you can produce—doesn’t have to correlate with hypertrophy. There are a lot of underlying factors that explain why this is, but suffice to say that the way you train and eat has a lot to do with it. It’s the same reason why bodybuilders tend to be much bigger than powerlifters, but are rarely as strong in that particular sport.
Perhaps the primary reason you aren’t likely to gain so much muscle mass that it impacts your running performance has to do with the fact that gaining muscle mass requires a great deal of nutritional support.
Hypertrophy requires a caloric surplus. If you work out like someone who wants to gain muscle mass but don’t support it with the calories, you aren’t going to experience anywhere near as much hypertrophy as someone who does. Endurance athletes, like runners, have a smaller energy surplus than bodybuilders, so you’re likely to gain leaner muscle mass and additional strength, not a ton of extra weight.
Get Ready for Track Season With Runners Roost Fort Collins
Are you in the Fort Collins area? Come visit us at Runners Roost. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to get a free gait analysis test. It’s quick and costs nothing, but the benefits are huge.
Feel free to stop by and meet the team or give us a call at (970) 224-9114.