Before I continue, I'm linking up with the Friday Five link up hosted by Courtney at Eat Pray Run DC, Cynthia at You Signed Up for What and Mar at Mar on the Run. Be sure to show them some love!
There are so many reasons why strength training is important for runners, I could go on forever. So, in the interest of time, below are my top five reasons :)
1. Injury Prevention. Strength training is a major way to protect your musco-skeletal system from injury. Think not only muscles but the tendons and ligaments as well. This improves joint stability and range of motion, both of which help with running form. It also helps improve your structural fitness - which is your body's ability to withstand the impact from running. Strength training can also improve muscle imbalances, which contribute primarily to injuries. For instance, many of us are tight in the hip flexors because we sit all day. This tightness in the hips contributes to a weakness in the glutes. When running, this causes us to run primarily with our front body (quads and hip flexors), overworking the muscles and eventually causing injuries there and elsewhere in the body (piriformis, knee, calves, etc). Focusing on increasing flexibility in the hips while building strength in the glutes can make a huge difference in not only preventing injury but overall performance.
2. Increased Running Form Efficiency. Building total-body strength is important for improving your efficiency as a runner. Weaker muscles fatigue sooner than stronger muscles, which will cause you to change your running form and decrease how efficiently your body moves over time. Anyone that has had back pain after a run can attest to this: a weak core collapses over time and pulls the muscles of the back while running. A strong core (in addition to a strong upper body) will help keep your posture up, allowing for better breathing and better leg turnover.
3. Improved Speed. Stronger muscles can run faster for longer periods of time. Research shows that the increase in muscle strength improves the muscles' ability to use energy and oxygen, allowing them to run faster for longer periods of time. The increased speed is also due to improved coordination (reason #1) and improved running form (reason #2).
4. Improved Metabolism. It doesn't matter if you are trying to lose weight, adding strength training to your routine will help improve your metabolism. That improvement in the muscles' ability to use oxygen mentioned above increases overall metabolism and your ability to burn calories. Increasing your muscle mass, while reducing your overall body fat mass, is not only one way to get faster, but it's healthier for you. Carrying around a lot of fat, particularly belly fat (which is both visceral fat -fat around your organs in your abdomen, and subcutaneous fat - fat directly under your skin), increases your likelihood of developing chronic health issues such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and even dementia. Runner or not, extra belly fat is not good for your overall health. Strength training can help reduce your overall body fat mass, which can do wonders for your overall health.
5. Improved Recovery. Those same muscles that are more efficient at using energy for running are also more efficient for removing metabolic waste products produced while running. This helps reduce post-run muscle fatigue and soreness. The improved strength of the joints and connective tissues due to strength training also helps with better range of motion after hard workouts.
The good thing about strength training is that adding just 2-3 sessions per week can make a huge difference. In all honesty, I became a personal trainer so I could help others overcome muscle imbalances, improve overall range of motion, stability and quality of life. It's why I work with people one-on-one and why I offer my group strength programs and I'm especially excited to be offering my strength training program for runners that starts in just over 2 weeks. It's a great intro to strength training for beginning and veteran runners alike. See my latest newsletter for answers to common questions about the program. And if you can't join the program and have questions on the types of exercises you should be doing, let me know!
Do you strength train? What's your favorite move?