Strength Training for Runners: Why and How?
This is a guest post written by KREW member Chris La Croix, a strength and conditioning coach from southern Maine.
When it comes to strength training, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information that’s out there. As a strength and conditioning coach, I sometimes need to remind myself of just how confusing it all can be.
- What exercises should I do?
- When should I do them?
- How often?
- How many times?
- Should I use weights? Machines? Bodyweight?
- Is strength training even important to me as a runner?
These are all great questions, and unfortunately finding the answers takes time and energy. And if you’re like most runners out there, you’d rather put that time and energy into weekly miles. I get it.
That being said, I truly believe that if you want to become the best runner you can be, you need to be doing some form of consistent strength training.
You might be thinking, “Why is strength training even important for runners? I thought if the training of specificity taught us anything it was that the best way to get better at something was to repeatedly do that one specific thing.”
The reality is, while running will certainly help us get more conditioned and subsequently “better” at running, strength training will help our bodies build the foundation needed to keep us running day after day, month after month, year after year, etc.
From increasing tendon, ligament, and muscle strength, to improving the neuromuscular connections that develop our power and technical efficiency, strength training has earned a spot in the weekly routine of any runner that wants to be durable, efficient, and as injury free as possible.
With my running clients, I like to start by finding out a few things.
- Are they currently doing any strength training
- If so, how often and what type of routine - a weekly yoga session? Some bodyweight exercises? Weights at the gym?
My advice and goal for most runners who aren’t currently doing any strength training, or are maybe completely new to it, is to do at least one 20 minute strength session a week.
Start with a few different bodyweight exercises like a Squat, Glute Bridge, Push-up, and Deadbug. These are all exercises easily found with a quick Google search. Completing each exercise for 10-15 reps, 1-3 rounds through is plenty to get you started, and will begin getting your body accustomed to this type of training.
Those who are already doing one or more strength training sessions a week, might benefit from reviewing their routine, and making sure that the exercises they’re doing are one’s that are giving them the most bang for their buck.
Exercises like Squats, Deadlifts, Bulgarian Split Squats, Floor Presses, Rows, and Deadbugs, are all exercises that are safe and easy to progress when done properly.
Focus on increasing the resistance used when doing your lifts, aiming for weight that is challenging for 6-8 reps. Depending on the length of the session, sets should typically range from 3-4.
At the end of the day, each runner’s strength needs are different. Certain runners need more frequency with less volume, some need more core strength and stability, while others may need to focus on pure strength. We are each unique in our abilities as runners, and each have different areas of improvement that are worth spending our time and energy on.
If you don’t have a coach, or are still unsure of what this all means to you, send me an email, or find a local running coach who is knowledgeable that can help you.
After all, we all want to be strong, healthy runners, winning an age group medal when we’re in our 80’s right? Or maybe that’s just me...
Happy running (and strength training),
Chris La Croix