Run Strong: my personal story + our top strength training tips for runners

run-strong

Being a runner most of my life, I played around here and there with strength training. I’d go to the local YMCA during the off season of cross country and track in high school and would work my way around the weight machines, doing the lifts I knew and felt comfortable with. A lot of them were isolated moves – curling biceps, seated leg extensions, maybe throwing in some ab crunches on the ab machine if I was feeling really feisty :)…it wasn’t until I got to college and started training in a whole new way (thank you, trainer Dereck aka “Coach”!) did I realize the impact moving my whole body together – often using just my own bodyweight or holding onto a weight while firing my core – would have not only on my physique but also on my running. I was able to run so much more efficiently – which meant more powerfully – and I wasn’t hitting the wall quite so quickly.

What I experienced personally has been backed up by research: In a study published in a Sports Medicine journal, researchers assigned participants different training schedules to be performed twice a week for 12 weeks. These groups were 1. Endurance training on its own, 2. Strength circuit training on its own and 3. A combo of endurance and strength circuit training together. Low and behold, the third group – those who combined both endurance and strength training – not only improved their time by over 8% but also increased their VO2 max and could run almost 14% longer before becoming exhausted compared to the other groups. Put simply, they were able to run faster, longer, and stronger.

What’s important to note is that the type of training is important. We know that muscles have memory and how you teach them to fire when you’re training is the way they’ll fire when the starting line gun goes off. For this reason,performing isolated moves in the weight room – while possibly developing muscle on your body,which can play a role in good aesthetics – doesn’t translate well to the full-body demands of running. That’s why in our gym, we focus on training MOVEMENTS, not just muscles.

One way your muscles move while running is through core rotation. You’ll notice that when you’re running, your abs are working, but they’re not flexing up and down like a sit up. Sit ups are not functional for a runner and won’t improve your movement. However, adding some gentle rotation through the midsection will help transfer power across the body via all those core muscles that are oriented diagonally. A strong core will bring energy to the legs and upper body and positively affect your running movement. We even add into our programs exercises called Anti-Rotation – where resistance is placed on one side and you simply resist rotating…so you’re not actually moving or twisting, but your rotation muscles are still working really hard (see pic).
Other prime movers during running are your hamstrings and glutes…they work to extend the leg back. They are also often much weaker on our bodies compared to the overused quads. We love strengthening hamstrings and glutes functionally – or how they would actually work while running – by doing exercises like a lying leg curl or hip bridge with leg straight or bent (squeeze the glute of the bent leg to lift your hips…yowza!).

…In the pic below, you’ll notice that if you turned me vertical, this is how my hip and leg move during the push off phase of running. Again, we’re training the brain to connect to the muscles and signal them to fire in the way they would during running and everyday life movements.

View any photo of a runner and you’ll see that running really takes place on a single leg…that means power must be generated one leg at a time, which requires balance and stability of all the joints. Since the body is a kinetic chain (everything is connected and affects the other), we focus on stabilization of the ankle, knee, and hip so power isn’t leaked and injury is better prevented.
Many of you have been to our space and know we train without the use of a lot of machines…we let your body be the main piece of equipment and simply load it up when necessary to perform moves in all directions, and with as many muscles as possible. We push, pull, change levels, rotate, and lunge –-> which teaches your muscles to decelerate and catch yourself – especially important for downhill running. We really feel, and know from experience working with tons of runners over the years, that strength training, when done right, can be a vital component to making you a more complete runner.

And if you need any help with that, we would love to work with you. Our members meet with a trainer once, twice, or three times a week in a Semi-Private setting and are coached through their very own personalized program – because what might work beautifully for you might not work well for your friend. All of our memberships also include our larger group circuit training class called Metabolic Conditioning. We invite you to come take a look at what we do by signing up for a free Strategy Session as the first step to adding strength training to your routine. Our passion is to help you experience the joy that feeling strong can bring to not only running, but to your life in general, so please click above or contact us today to take that next (single-legged) step. 🙂

Running in the Grand Haven Triathlon back in my competitive days. :)

Running in the Grand Haven Triathlon back in my competitive days. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *