How do you get better at running?
Well, first you run...a lot. Then you run some more. And, oh yeah, when you're done with that, go ahead and run again.
This is the training regimen for so many people in the running world. They want to run half marathons, marathons, or even ultra marathons, and they've been told that all they need to do is increase their weekly mileage more and more. Many of them have even been told explicitly that strength training or going to the gym is not good for a runner.
While it may be true that a lot of running is required to become a long distance runner, the reality is that strength training is also crucial to running faster, longer and most important, injury free.
Why Runners Need Strength Training
Many studies have been conducted to show that adding strength training to your regular running routine can help you run more efficiently and reduce the chance of injuries.
One such study, done by Oyvind Storen of Norway in 2008, took seventeen well trained runners and split them into two groups. Eight were placed in the experimental group and nine in the control group. Both groups continued their normal training routine, but the experimental group added half-squats. They did four sets of four repetitions, three times a week for 8 weeks.
The results showed a 5% improvement in running economy and a 21% improvement in time to exhaustion at maximum aerobic speed for the experimental group. The control group showed no improvements at all.
And that was just from adding half-squats! Imagine the improvements with a full routine of body weight exercises or a targeted strength training routine at the gym, conducted 2-3 times a week.
Studies have also shown that strength training exercises, especially for the legs, can prevent many of the injuries that are common to the sport of running. Lower body exercises strengthen the muscles in the legs around the knees and hips and improve stability.
Many runners who struggled with common running injuries for years have reported being injury free after combining strength training with their endurance training.
Excercises for Runners
- - Bodyweight Squats
Start with feet slightly more than shoulder width apart. Bend at the knees and hips simultaneously, keeping the back straight. Make sure your knees stay directly over your ankles and not past your toes. Lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep your weight on your heels throughout the exercise. Return to the standing position to complete the exercise.
- Single-Leg Deadlifts
Stand with your feet together and hands in front of thighs. Keep your back straight and bend at the waist raising one leg straight behind you, until your hands touch the floor. The supporting leg should be slightly bent. Return to starting position and repeat with the other leg.
- Single-Leg Squats
Stand with arms straight out in front, balance on one leg with the other leg extended straight in front of you. Lower yourself as far as possible while keeping the leg elevated off the floor. Return to starting position and repeat with the other leg.
- Forward Lunge on Bosu ball
Stand with feet together facing the bosu ball. Lunge forward landing your front foot on the bosu ball. Return to starting position and repeat with the other leg.
If you want to be a long distance runner you need to do strength training exercises 2-3 times a week. It will improve your running economy and keep you from being sidelined for months at a time, so start a strength training program this week and enjoy your running.