Some people think that they should train only in the same way they want to perform, but they’re cheating themselves if they limit their conditioning this way. Runners, for instance, can get a lot of benefit from weight training.
Certainly, there’s benefit to be had from running while preparing for competition, but runners and sprinters need to have power too, not just stamina. Weight training can help you build up strength in specific muscle areas, which will help add both speed and endurance to your running.
Weight training can also help you to maintain the form and posture you need to keep from becoming fatigued when running. This is important, especially in long distance running, as it can help prevent injuries as well as conserve energy.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that weight training will just cause you to bulk up and cost you in terms of increased weight and reduced flexibility. There’s no need to bulk up at all when weight training. There are some guidelines to follow, though.
First of all, the key to building strength without unnecessary bulking is to use heavier weights, rather than high reps with lighter weights. That way your muscles develop faster and more powerful contractions. Pick a heavy enough weight that at five reps, you’re already pushing your limitations. You’ll get deeper results, without the bulk and definition.
Myths of Weight Training for Runners
I’ve come across a lot of runners that normally do nothing but work on their legs. This can cause long-term problems, however. While running will toughen up the quadriceps and hamstrings, it does nothing for the glutes. Weaker glutes can allow misalignment of the joints, which can tire you out faster and can lead to injuries.
A balanced exercise program will provide proper joint alignment, muscle balance and greater efficiency of movement, while protecting you against joint strain that can turn into serious long-term problems.
A great way to start is with squats and deadlifts. Begin with bodyweight exercises, both single and double leg, and gradually add weights. After a while, you can add more explosive moves. This will get you ready for some plyometric exercises.
Plyometric exercises, or plyos, have proven very effective in improving running performance. They are explosive exercises which will develop deep muscle strength. For example, doing jump squats for height while holding dumbbells is an ideal explosive exercise. You can gradually increase the weights to continue advancing.
A lot of runners think there’s no need for them to work on their upper body – this is another mistake. Developing your upper body will keep you from having rounded shoulders, by pulling your shoulders back into a more natural posture, which results in easier, deeper breathing. You’ll also waste less energy by carrying your arms more smoothly, so rowing exercises and drills to develop your upper back and shoulders will help a great deal. Working both your upper and lower body equally will pay off in performance and endurance. women’s health blogs
Don’t neglect your core, because training your core will provide more stability, reducing unwanted motion when you’re running. This doesn’t mean sit-ups and crunches, either – forget those. You’re better off doing plank exercises.
Warm-ups, starting slow and cooling down are always important, but can be even more so when using explosive exercises. The idea is to slowly build muscle, not injure yourself. The focus of your program should be to correct imbalances in your muscles and align your joints for proper movement, while increasing the deep strength of your muscles for explosive bursts of power.
Some exercises should be avoided when using weight training primarily for runners, so I’ve outlined some below that make up a good runner’s weight training program:
Weight Exercises for Runners
Crossover lunges – Start in a standing position with a weight in each hand and bring the left knee up to the chest, then step the left leg back diagonally behind the right, lowering your body as if curtseying. Keep the hips and shoulders square and use the right foot to push your body up. Do 10 reps per side.
Box Step-ups – Using a bench or stair as a step, place on foot on top with leg forming a 90 deg. angle, and with a weight in each hand, push your lower leg up onto the step (don’t jump) then return it to the floor. Do 10 reps on each side.