Runners are notorious for “just running” and avoiding the other necessary but less fun parts of training such as cross training and strength training.
The problem is—those other aspects of training are an integral part of a health running plan, and they keep you going instead of getting sidelined by an injury.
And I GET IT! I really do.
I’ve been guilty of skimping on my strength training, because it can be hard to fit in your schedule. When you’re training for a race and trying to increase your miles and still take proper rest days, you might just not have time to fit in an extra 30 minutes here or there to give your muscles the tender loving support they need.
Guilty as Charged
When I trained for my first half marathon, I pretty much ONLY ran. With the exception of a tiny bit of core work and calisthenics in my basement, strength training was left out. I never hit the weights during that training plan. And LUCKILY, I made it through without injury although I did take more rest days than the training plan called for.
During my second half marathon training cycle, I incorporated more body weight strength training (mostly in an effort to make sure I was ready for my physical fitness test 3 weeks after the half marathon). That half marathon was an 11-minute improvement from my first one just 7 months before. This summer, I started hitting the weights again twice per week. By again, I mean that I used to be an avid weight lifter before I got into running. What happened when I started doing leg day for real again? I took a full minute and 40 seconds off my 5k personal record!
Intentional strength training made a huge difference for me.
Failure to Incorporate Strength Training Could Spell Disaster for You
I’ve seen a range of numbers on the statistics of how likely runners are to get injured. The consensus is between 70-80% of recreational and competitive runners will sustain an overuse injury during any given year.
EVERY 12-MONTH PERIOD. 8 out of 10 runners!
This literally means every time you line up for a race, 8 out of the 10 people around you are suffering (or have suffered) some type of overuse injury during the year. Those odds are stacked against you!
Since nursing an injury can really get in the way of your running consistency and running consistency is one of the most important factors in your ability to improve your running fitness and get faster…then injury can really get in the way of your progress.
I don’t know about you, but I REALLY don’t want a preventable injury to hold up my progress.
When I saw this statistic, it honestly scared me a little bit.
I knew if I didn’t change my ways, I would be at risk for injury sooner rather than later. Thankfully, I jumped into action and added strength training to my plan, so I have managed to avoid injury and stay consistent with my running thus far.
Benefits of Strength Training for Runners
According to coach Jason Fitzgerald at Strength Running, strength training exercises for runners pack 3 big benefits:
- Prevents injuries that result from weak muscles, tendons, or ligaments
- Develop muscular power that enables speed and a fast finishing kick
- Build neuro-muscular coordination that improves running economy and efficiency
Just incorporating 1 thing into your training plan—strength training—can help you improve 3 different aspects of your running!
Whether you are training for a race or not, it’s easy to see how strength training can be very beneficial for your running.
What You Can Do to Incorporate Strength Training
Ok, all this sounds great and you know you need to start doing some strength training, but HOW?
If you’re not sure where to start…keep reading.
First, you need to schedule time for it!
I’ve personally found that the easiest way to do this is to pair 30-40 minute strength sessions with my shorter or easy workouts for the week. I also try to combine them in a way that makes it as easy as possible.
For example, I combine my track interval workout with leg day each week. I do my speed workout first (If I did leg strength first, there wouldn’t be anything left in the tank for my speed workout!), then hit the weights after. If you do leg day right, recovery will pretty much always suck. I recognize this and put an easy workout and/or a rest day the 1-2 days after I work legs.
For my other strength training workouts, I’ll do them before or after an easy run. Usually my easy runs are shorter, so it allows me more time to get my strength exercises in without completely compromising my schedule.
Second, you need to plan out which strength training exercises you will do AHEAD OF TIME!
If you just schedule time and then when the moment arrives you aren’t sure what you’re supposed to be doing, you’ll probably end up skipping it!
Have a list of the specific exercises and how many repetitions you want to do ready to go.
Not sure what exercises are the most effective? Use the form below to grab a FREE download of “5 Strength Moves Every Runner Should Be Doing” to get you started.
If you would rather just have an easy-to-follow program quickly set-up for you so you can just look at your checklist and do the workout, my friend Bethany at How to Run Guide made a fantastic course where you can grab a 28-Day Strength Program!
The 28-Day Strength Program has all of the exercises you need to do for 28 Days AND the Enhanced version includes a printable workout journal and checklists so you can track your progress through the month! PLUS, she even throws in videos of each exercise to make sure you’re doing your moves correctly.
For me, I’ve found that it is SO MUCH EASIER to take the guess work out of strength training and have a plan written out ahead of time. If you’re not sure how to put a plan together that maximizes your time and minimizes likelihood of injury, then Bethany’s 28-Day Strength Program is the perfect starting point for you!
How has strength training helped you improve your running?
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About Me: I’m Alexis, Founder of RunningMyBestLife! I am an avid recreational runner, half marathoner, wife, dog mom, busy professional, downhill skier in Northern Utah. My mission is to help new enthusiasts fall in love with the sport of running. I believe that running is a catalyst to taking control of your life and living your best life by design. Learn More –>