Within the running community, there have always been misconceptions and concerns when it comes to strength training and weightlifting. Many people fear that hitting the gym will cause them to gain “too much” muscle or add extra body weight that can end up negatively impacting their race times. Even Arthur Lydiard, the legendary coach who trained athletes in the ‘50s and ‘60s, has firmly stated that runners don’t need to do any strength training in order to reach their performance goals.
However, research has proven that strength and conditioning programs can be incredibly worthwhile for new runners and seasoned marathoners alike.
Benefits of Weight Training
According to the Mayo Clinic, strength training can be “a key component of overall health and fitness for everyone.” The Mayo Clinic also stresses the fact that it doesn’t necessarily take a lot of time to begin seeing the positive effects of weightlifting; people can begin noticing changes with just 2 or 3 half-hour training sessions per week. Some of these benefits can include:
- Increased lean muscle mass.
- Reduced body fat.
- Better muscle coordination.
- Reduced chance of injury.
- Improved bone density.
- Easier (and more enjoyable) runs.
Recommended Types of Strength Training
Runners concerned about putting on extra weight or developing “bulky” muscles have no reason to worry. There are a number of ways to tone your muscles, increase endurance, and boost running performance while maintaining a lean figure. A few common types of strength training options to consider include:
- Circuit training. A circuit routine is a surefire way to get your heartrate up, benefit your cardiovascular system, and keep your workouts interesting. This type of training includes brief, high-intensity exercises with short rests between each set.
- Traditional weightlifting. Traditional weightlifting has been shown to improve running economy, coordination, and anaerobic performance, making it a beneficial routine for sprinters. However, runners should focus on moving moderate amounts of weight instead of trying to pile on the pounds.
- Plyometrics. Also known as “explosive training,” this type of exercise has been proven to improve running performance at 5K. As the name suggests, plyometrics involves several quick bursts of movements. Jumping jacks, squat jumps, and box jumps are common elements in this type of workout.
Not sure where to start? Here a few simple exercises that are specifically recommended for runners of all ability levels:
Best of all, these exercises require no special equipment and can be completed whenever you have a few extra moments in your day. Just take care to not push yourself too hard right away!