Strength Training for Runners

This post originally appeared on Balanced's Wellness Blog. Learn more about their work at balancechiropracticva.com

It has almost become cliché to say that runners should strength train. So then I ask, are you a runner who is strength training consistently (2-3 times a week)? If the answer is “hmmm, no,” you might not fully understand all of the amazing benefits we get from strength training. Let me break it down for you.


Benefit #1: It Makes You Faster

Proper strength training has been shown to improve running economy, or the ability to run faster while using less energy. Let me put it this way, if you could run a 7-minute mile with the same amount of effort it takes you to run an 8-minute mile right now, you would take that deal right? Of course you would. Faster runners spend less time on the ground and produce more force when they strike the ground. You can improve your force production and ground contact time through various exercises, drills, speedwork and plyometrics that can actually train the neuromuscular system to fire faster. Make sure you are complementing your runs with all of this ancillary work. Take that deal!


Benefit #2: It Reduces Injury Risk

A strong body is crucial to tolerate the repetitive load of running. Many overuse injuries can be avoided with the addition of strength training and a variety of functional, rotational, and multi-directional movements to your regimen.  I like to explain it this way: if you have an overuse injury like plantar fasciitis, you know the plantar is working too hard. Rest is an answer, sure, but come on, you and I both know you aren’t taking more than a day off without losing sanity! If you are able to strengthen the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, calves) to carry more of the load that your plantar is currently taking, you will reduce the use of your plantar and improve its function.

 Photo credit: Dana Thiele

Photo credit: Dana Thiele

Benefit #3: It Enhances Recovery

This is probably my favorite fun fact that many runners don’t realize. When done correctly, lifting heavier loads produces a positive hormonal response that can rev-up the recovery process AND significantly reduce the risk of overtraining. Lifting heavy will improve your overall strength, and metabolism; but what’s more I guarantee you will sleep really, really well at night.


All In All…

When done correctly and consistently, strength training and other ancillary work like drills and faster running can make you more efficient, reduce risk of injury, and enhance recovery.  You will feel stronger on your runs and in races, and you will be able to tolerate higher training loads and have more energy. Make strength training a priority and your body and mind will thank you!