Why Strength Training Is A Must For Long Distance Runners
by Detric Smith, CSCS, USAW, ACSM-HFI
If you’re someone who is involved in the sport of long distance running, there’s absolutely no denying the fact that you will be spending a great amount of time pounding the pavement on a week to week basis.
You’re out there getting those long runs in, seeing just how far you can take your endurance capacity. As such, you may put off doing any other forms of activities because you just don’t feel you have the time – or energy – to get them in.
But, one activity that you may want to rethink putting off any longer is strength training. For endurance runners, strength training is quite possibly the most beneficial form of cross training that could be done – even more beneficial than any other endurance and aerobic related activities.
Let’s take a closer look at why strength training is so important for distance runners and the benefits it will provide you.
Decreased Injury Risk
The very first and probably the most important reason to strength train is because it will help to lower your risk of injuries developing during those long running sessions.
Distance runners are going to be at a greater risk of injury simply due to the fact they are placing so much wear and tear on their body over time. Furthermore, distance runners will constantly be dealing with the impact coming down on their knees, ankles, and hips, which, if the ligaments and tendons surrounding these joints aren’t strong, could potentially cause them to become displaced, meaning you experience great strain on that joint.
This in turn can lead to serious pain and even arthritis, often taking you out of the sport of running altogether.
Strength training will help to strengthen all the muscles and ligaments in the body so that your body is better equipped to handle all the physical demands that distance running brings.
Improved Speed And Muscular Power
The next reason to incorporate strength training in your workout routine is because it’s also going to improve your muscular power and speed. Those who have stronger lower bodies will be able to propel themselves along the pavement faster since they have more drive underneath their feet with each stride they take.
While long distance running very much is about endurance over speed, clearly the faster you can run that long distance, the better runner you will be.
Preservation Of Muscle Mass Tissue
When you start doing higher amounts of long distance running without strength training, your body may actually start losing lean tissue to some extent because it starts to realize that this lean tissue is very heavy to transport around. The lighter the body is, the easier those long distance runs will be, so getting rid of muscle would act in its favor.
But, this isn’t what you want. While it may be energy inefficient tissue and very dense, your lean muscle mass is also what makes you strong and what helps you maintain an ideal body weight.
Therefore, you want to do everything that you can to preserve it. Strength training is the absolute best way to go about doing this.
When you perform strength training workouts during the week, you are sending a strong signal to the body that it has to sustain your lean muscle mass because it needs it to complete the regular activities being asked of it.
For any distance runner, this is a very important consideration.
Greater Core Strength
As you perform strength training exercises, you’ll constantly be stimulating the core muscles as well as they will contract to keep your balanced.
For distance runners, having good core strength will be important as well as this will be necessary to keep your body upright and in proper position.
Distance runners who have weak core muscles may start to take on poor posture as they go about their runs due to core muscle fatigue, which can then set them up to experience lower back pain.
The great news is that you don’t even have to perform specific core strengthening exercises (although you can if you wish) because of the fact that all strength training movements you do will engage the core muscles.
Enhanced Fat Utilization
Moving along, the next key benefit that resistance training will offer is that it will improve your ability to use fat as an energy source whether you’re running or just going about your day. This is going to make the process of weight loss or maintaining your body weight – whichever is your goal, that much easier.
Those individuals who participate in a resistance training program on a regular basis almost always tend to be leaner than those who don’t, so if weight loss is a goal of yours, that’s a big reason to get involved.
And, even if it isn’t, maintaining a leaner body will help make running feel easier since you don’t have as much fat mass to move around, so this can also improve your running performance.
Resistance To Fatigue
Finally, speaking of fatigue, resistance training can teach the muscles to better withstand fatigue as you go about your training, meaning you can run longer without tiring out.
Fatigue is one of the greatest challenges, both physically as well as mentally for anyone who is doing endurance related events, so having this benefit from weight lifting is going to be very helpful as your distances climb higher.
So there you have all the many reasons why you should be considering a resistance training program as a long distance runner. Make sure that you are not overlooking just how powerful this exercise variation can be and start making time to complete two to three sessions per week.