Strength training to run further

As discussed this week, there are many benefits to strength training and running and cycling. Long distance runs put a lot of stress on your body especially when it comes to the joints at your ankles, knees and hips. Preserving joint integrity can be aided by a solid strength training plan. What the strength training does in particular is build up the muscles surrounding your joints which increases the integrity of the joint itself because the surrounding muscles act as a support structure for the joints. With all strength training plans the goal is to steadily build strength over time so don’t go out the gates trying to dead lift 400lbs. That won’t get you anywhere. Again the exercises to add into your program should be exercises for your glutes, and hamstrings, explosive movements like box jumps/steps, lunges and core exercises as exampled yesterday.  You are  going to want to do upper body training as well but the above exercises are specific to building a really strong core and legs. Having a strong core is particularly important. I have yet to meet an exercise physiologist or top runner who hasn’t said that the most important part of their strength training is core training.

As you start strength training to your schedule, it shouldn’t be  more than 1-2 days a week. You can also include 10 minutes of strength training exercises at the end of every run to also aid in loosening up muscles and maintaining range of motion. For example, you can do two repetitions of 10 walking lunges since the lunging motion also opens up the hips and helps you return to pre-run range of motion.

Lastly after each run STRETCH! The main reasons for running injuries are: (1) scaling your mileage too quickly (2) lack of stretching leading to muscle imbalances that disrupt form, causing dysfunction/injury. As a rule of thumb, plan on stretching for at least 30 minutes each day. And if you feel tightness/discomfort in certain muscle groups wait for a few hours and then stretch again. The constant pounding a runner experiences induces muscle tightness. Over time you get more and more tight until eventually that causes injuries. Stretching should be performed after every single run and all core running muscle groups should receive at least a few minutes of stretching.

So, in summary of this week’s topic:

  • Get on a training schedule and plan every day of training for the next 4-6 months.
  • Start with low mileage and slowly work your way up. Never increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% a week.
  • Include plenty of rest time especially at the beginning of your training.
  • Pre-run and post-run nutrition are critical for ensuring you have enough fuel to push your mileage during the run and to recovery quickly after the run.
  • Stretch, stretch, stretch. And when you think you’ve stretched enough, stretch again!
  • Include a healthy amount of strength training in your schedule (at least 1-2 days a week) with heavy focus on core stability. The goal is to do high repetitions until failure, not heavy weight until failure.
  • Last but not least, listen to your body. If it starts telling you “enough is enough, give me a break!” then listen to it!
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