The Value of Strength Workouts for Runners
Despite the compelling evidence supporting the inclusion of strength training in a runner’s programme, there are still plenty of runners who just run. Are you one of the many runners who do no additional strength training to help yourself develop as all-around balanced athlete?
Believe me, I get it… Above all else, us runners just want to run!
However, with my injury rehab background, I’m acutely aware of the one biggest factor that limits so many runners – injury.
It’s a frustrating reality that injury rates are incredibly high amongst runners; some sources suggest that over 75% of runners get injured each year. No wonder that when speaking to any given runner, the conversation often turns to injury.
Strength Training to Prevent Running Injuries
Most of the common running injuries I see fall into the ‘overuse’ category, where some sort of movement dysfunction or soft tissue imbalance has been exacerbated by the highly repetitive and hight impact activity of running mile after mile. It’s not the marathon itself that breaks most runners, it’s the necessary mile after mile in training before you even make the start line.
ITB syndrome, plantar fasciitis, shin splints… the list goes on. These are all running injuries I’m guaranteed to see lots of during marathon training season. All of them overuse related. All of them largely avoidable.
Strength training for injury prevention in runners is an area of relative dearth in terms of scientific research, as Running Physio Tom Goom discusses here. However a relatively recent meta-analysis from Danish researchers Lauersen et.al. suggests that strength training has a positive effect on reducing overuse injuries in athletes (not runners specifically though).
Ten Tips for Effective Strength Training for Distance Runners
1: The Little & Often Approach Works
2: Don’t Compromise Your Recovery
4: Stretch as well as Strengthen
5: Work Multiple Planes of Motion
6: Learn & Maintain Great Technique
7: Train Your Body Asymmetrically
8: Don’t Worry About Bulking-Up
10: Get a Physio Assessment
SHOULD RUNNERS LIFT WEIGHTS?
I want to quickly address the topic of weight training for runners, as I am asked about it quite often, along with more specific queries about whether runners should perform exercises like heavy squats and deadlifts.
It’s not a black-and-white yes/no answer, as it really depends where the runner is in their training year. If you’re in the middle of a marathon training block, and your weekly mileage is building nicely, the last thing your legs are going to want is an extra session or two of heavy squats and deadlifts to recover from.