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Strength Training & Running

by Holli Childs

I am sure many of you have heard that it is important to incorporate strength training into your running program. I remember what it was like to hear that and be overwhelmed, not sure where I should focus, and how to begin working that in. Well, after several years of study and application, I have finally figured a few things out. I am going to explain why it is important, and then give a few suggestions of how to include it.

We have all seen those individuals at the gym that bench 300 pounds and throw around weights as if they are stuffed animals. I personally have never had the desire to be one of those people. However, you can find me at the gym, or at home, lifting weights and doing various other strength training exercises. I do it because it helps me perform better in everyday activities and it helps me feel/perform better while in a regular running program. Running uses a very specific set of muscles and if we don’t focus on any other muscles we can create muscle imbalances. Those muscle imbalances can lead to poor posture, joint misalignments, and eventually, injuries.

Although we may not realize it, our hips are vital to running and injury prevention. They consist of some very large muscle groups:  the glutes, hamstrings, and some of the muscles associated with the quads. There are also some very small muscle groups, such as the piriformis, psoas major, and other muscles involved in rotation and supporting the hip and leg. These muscles are the source of power in every stride, if used correctly and strengthened accordingly. They also help maintain alignment through our low back, hips, knees, ankles, and feet. As you can see, if they are not properly strengthened, a plethora of problems can arise, including shin splints, IT Band syndrome, and patellar tendonitis. Ultimately, our hip strength can determine our success as a runner.

Another muscle group that is very important to focus on is the core. Our core is vital to stability. It connects the motion of our upper body and the power of the lower body. The motion of our arms helps propel our forward momentum and maintain our cadence and stride. Without proper core strength, it becomes difficult to maintain good, stable form, thus leading to potential injuries. As you can see, the strength of our lower body and core is very important in our running performance and abilities.

There are several different ways to include strength training in your running program. It is important to give your body a rest from the impact of running.

Typically, a one day rest is recommended. Using that rest day to do some strength training is a great way to stay active each day and continuously be working towards your running goal. If you are like me, there are a lot of things that I like to do, so my rest days consist of cycling, swimming, or playing a sport of some kind. I have found the method that works the best for me is to take twenty minutes after each run to do some strength training. If you are a morning runner, go for your run in the morning, and do a few minutes of strength training before you go to bed, focusing on a different muscle group each day.

There are several ways that you can incorporate strength training into your running program.

Hopefully, I now have you convinced that it is important, and the only remaining step is to know which exercises to do. There are so many different options, I can’t even begin to list and describe them here. The internet is an excellent source for images and how-to’s for various exercises.

To get you started, here are a couple of links to videos and articles to help you get started:

 

Happy strength training!

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