As keen runners we all know the benefits of cardiovascular training to improve performance. However, there are several key reasons why it is important to add weight training to your existing regime to complement your training and help you achieve optimum results.
Think of your muscles as a support system for your joints. The stronger they are, the less impact your knees will feel, allowing you a longer, pain free running life. Conditioned muscles will also recover faster meaning less chance of injury due to over-training.
A slight increase in lean muscle mass has numerous benefits for a runner. The key is to increase your strength without increasing your weight. Focus on big, functional, lower body exercises such as squats, lunges and deadlifts to build up muscles around your hips and knees.
As well as increasing lean muscle weight training can also help to lower body fat. To be an efficient runner you don’t want to be carrying around weight that offers no benefit. By ensuring your muscle to fat ratio is on point, you will burn more calories and maintain a higher metabolism.
Research has shown an increase in muscular endurance from strength training helps with your ‘final kick’ in a 5-10k race. Drawing on your fast twitch muscle fibres, which improve through strength exercises such as Plyometrics, will give you that change of speed for an impressive sprint finish.
Most of us have a dominant side. Running long distances can magnify that but specific weight training can target weaker muscles and bring your body back into alignment. Add in unilateral exercises to your training plan such as lunges to ensure you work both sides equally.
Long distance running can turn the body catabolic (where the body breaks down muscle for energy). To counteract this, regular weight training releases anabolic (muscle building) hormones such as growth hormone and testosterone which will repair and rebuild those muscles to ensure you get maximum performance.
Weight training increases bone density. Put simply, when your body has to support an extra load, your bones will work harder, making them stronger. Stronger bones will enable you to have a longer running career and hopefully reduce your risk of injury.
Many people spend a lot of time in unnatural positions, such as those with desk-based jobs and those who spend considerable amounts of time driving. This can lead to postural change. Over time this can lead to negative effects in running performance. To maximise performance you need good, neutral posture.
For example, If you round your shoulders when you run and close in your chest, chances are you’re not getting as much oxygen as you should and this will work against you when you are chasing that half marathon PB. Focus on upper back and posterior shoulder exercises to pull the shoulders back and increase efficiency.
Also ensure your lower body muscles are flexible so you get more ‘bang for your buck’ on each stride. This will take no extra effort but will certainly improve comfort and performance.
James Johnstone provides online strength programmes to improve running performance, and is the owner of Leeds Personal Training Studio. For more, visit www.leeds-pt.co.uk