Strength Training as a Runner: What is the Goal?
There are hundreds of strength training regimens that you can follow as a runner, but at the end of the day how do you choose what is going to be most effective for the purpose of being a better endurance athlete? We want to provide you with the components of what we believe a productive strength training program should entail. To do this, we must look at the overall goal and purpose of being a great distance athlete. An endurance athlete uses strength for power production, coordination and running economy (skill reinforcement) and injury prevention. If these are the goals what should all strength regiments consist of?
1) Balance/Mobility: It is no secret that most of our sport is done on one leg, nor is it a secret that our muscles need to be fluid in order to achieve proper range of motion while running at a variety of paces. Any strength routine should highlight these areas. They are critical for our running economy and even more crucial for injury prevention. Often, weakness in stability during any phase of running can be the cause of injury. Single leg balance requires a great amount of micro control that involves muscles in the feet, lower legs and stabilizer muscles. Weakness in any of these areas can often result in compensation leading to common injuries in the anterior knee, IT Band, Achilles and plantar fascia. Compensation and poor muscle recruitment patterns can result in less efficient bio mechanics as well.
2) Force Production: All distance runners need work on their running and movement economy. We are a repetitive use sport. An athlete has to have the ability to absorb force and produce it repeatedly. When thinking of force production, many of us think of typical Olympic lifts which do have a place in endurance training. Other activities that include force production are ballistic movements (muscle contractions at high velocity, high force production and high firing rates over short periods of time). Examples: jump squats, kettle bell swings, med ball throws, etc.
3) Posture: A lot of people think of posture in relation to a strong core, but posture is about total trunk control. The ability to maintain good posture is not just about holding posture when fatigued, but it is about being able to maintain proper positioning in our regular running movement. This includes spine and pelvis alignment. Postural work doesn’t just include your typical core exercises, it includes being able to hold a strong core while on one leg (in static or dynamic movement) or with weight held above the head.
The weight room and strength training can be intimidating, we hope highlighting these points gives you confidence moving forward with choosing a strength routine.