If you ask a thousand random people if they think weight/strength training could make them a better runner, I guarantee that 95% of the people would say no. And why would they think otherwise? It’s not like there are many people talking and raving about the impact of strength training on your run capacity/ability. Because yes, Strength-weight training can definitely have a big positive impact on your running. You’re right, strength training and running are both completely different aspects of fitness, but why does that mean they can’t not compliment and benefit each other?
Last week I talked about how running can make you stronger/ better at lifting weights, this week I will turn the tables. Let’s take a look at all the different ways of how strength training can improve your running.
Stronger muscles, more power
At first glance you might think some along the line of: ”This could be true for short distance running but how would this help my long-distance running?”. Well yes, more leg power could obviously increase your speed, acceleration and power output during short distance running (think 100-metersprints to 5K runs), but that doesn’t mean it can’t do the same for long distances. The big difference between the short and long distance running here is that your lung capacity needs to be good enough to keep that power up for however long you’re running for. If your legs are able to keep a certain pace but your lungs can’t keep up half way through the distance, obviously we need to match that capacity. This is where actual running workouts and slow pace running comes into play. When you’re trying to become better at running, run specific workouts should have the main priority. If you want/need to increase your aerobic/ lung capacity to keep up a certain speed over longer periods of time, you will need to add in more slower pace training. Zone 2 training is how you improve your aerobic capacity.
Strength is never a weakness if your body and lungs have the capacity to keep up the same pace and provide the muscles with enough oxygen. If you’re trying to become better at sprinting (100/200 meters, 400-800 meter distance at most) gaining more and stronger muscles are going to help you regardless. The longer a distance is the harder your lungs have to work to supply enough oxygen to the muscles, with sprinting the distances are too short for that to happen (see picture below). Once the aerobic system kicks in (around the 2-3 minute mark), the difference in lung capacity and the ability of supplying oxygen to the muscles is going to be a major factor for runners. This is why there’s such a difference in physiques between sprinters and marathon runners (see picture below). If you have less muscle mass, the oxygen supply doesn’t need to be as big.
Regardless of the difference in physqique, any sort of weightlifting is going to help you run a little bit faster. Not all workouts are geared towards making your muscles bigger, there’s also a things like: muscle health and overall strengthening.
Stronger muscles, less injuries
If you have ever done multiple intense or longer distance running workouts per week, over long periods of time (not just once every other month), you probably experienced some type of (small) injury or naggings over time. If you have ever done strength/hypertrophy workouts before you will know that stronger/ well maintained muscles are less likely to get injured. Strong muscles are like a suit of armor for your body that’s really hard to break, weak muscles are like a shield that you buy at a goodwill store, cheap and easy to break. They key here is strong muscles that are well maintained, the muscles need to be flexible and healthy enough to be of any good use. If the muscles are super tight, they’re still more prone to any injuries. Well maintained, strong and flexible muscles keep your body safe and produce more power while running.
If you like to run trails or are a competitive trail runner, both of the points I have talked about are of big importance to you. With trail running you will find more up/down hill running and your legs need to be able to drive you up and take the pounding/impact when coming down. With trail running comes a bigger risk of injuries because of the road/path conditions, unforeseen weather conditions and all the other obvious aspects that make trail running so cool, interesting and different. With all of that, it’s highly important that your muscles are in the right condition to deal with anything that might come up.
Things to keep in mind
Keep in mind: If you’re trying to become good at running, you will have to run more. Run long distances at an easier pace, run high intensity intervals, threshold training etc. Weight training is great for improving your running but it shouldn’t dominate your training sessions, specification is key when trying to become really good at something. Leaning to one side too much is a different story however, you need to balance the training sessions in order to keep your muscles and body from adapting too much, becoming bored/tired and most importantly lazy. It’s very easy to fall in a training routine where we just go through our sessions without thinking about it, this usually doesn’t produce the best results. Keep things varied but your specialized training needs to be your main priority.
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