If you’re a runner, you’re probably constantly striving to up your game. Whether it’s breaking a new PB or extending your distance, there are many ways you can improve your practice.
In pursuit of those goals, many runners may look at external motivators like trying on different running shoes or switching up their diet. While effective to an extent, one thing that these runners overlook is the value of strength training.
Strength training is the process of using resistance to build muscle mass, usually by weightlifting or bodyweight exercises. It’s an important part of any fitness routine, but it’s often overlooked by runners who focus mainly on cardiovascular exercise.
Why Runners Will Benefit From Strength Training
If you’ve ever wondered whether strength training is worth your while as a runner, here are five reasons why it can be very beneficial.
1) It Can Improve Your VO2 Max
VO2 max is a measure of how much oxygen your body can utilize during exercise, and it’s one of the best indicators of aerobic fitness.
Runners with a higher VO2 max can run at a faster pace for longer periods of time. This is because their bodies are more efficient at using oxygen and require less energy to power their muscles.
While VO2 max is usually determined by age, gender, body composition, and heredity, there are strength training methods that can help provide a small boost.
This can include lifting weights or incorporating plyometric exercises into your routine. Lunges, planks, and pushups could also deliver good results to one’s VO2 capacity.
2) It Decreases the Risk of Injuries
The runner’s knee and shin splints are unfortunately all too common among runners. The repetitive nature of the sport puts a lot of strain on the muscles, tendons, and joints, which can eventually lead to overuse injuries.
While you can’t completely eliminate the risk of injuries by strength training, you can most certainly reduce it. Strength training helps decrease the risk of injuries by building up the muscles that support your joints and by improving your balance and coordination.
Muscular imbalances caused by neglecting other areas of the body can also be a major factor in injuries. For example, runners who have strong quads but weak glutes are more likely to experience knee problems because the muscles don’t match each other in relative strength.
Incorporating strength training into your routine can help you avoid these imbalances and keep your muscles working together efficiently.
3) It Improves Your Form
If you feel strained in your lower back following a marathon or a long run, it could be due to poor running form.
Improving your form can help you run more efficiently and with less strain, which can lead to better race times and a reduced risk of injuries.
Running doesn’t involve just the movement of your legs—your whole body is involved in the process. A strong core and upper body are essential for good running form.
For instance, runners with a weak core are more likely to hunch over, which makes it harder to breathe and can lead to back pain. Excessive or poor arm swings can also make you more susceptible to injuries, but this can be mitigated by proper strength training.
4) It Makes You Faster
The elusive quest for speed is what drives many runners to keep pushing themselves. If you’ve hit a plateau in your training or you’re struggling to shave seconds off your personal best, strength training can give you the boost you need.
While it might seem counterintuitive, adding muscle mass can actually make you faster. This is because these muscles don’t need to expend as much energy to move your body forward, which means you can run at a faster pace with less effort.
Of course, you don’t want to bulk up too much, or else you’d end up sacrificing speed and endurance. The key is to find the right balance of muscle mass and cardiovascular fitness, and that starts by finding the right equipment for your needs.
Fortunately, you can get strength equipment online from a variety of retailers. This makes it easy to find the perfect setup for your home gym, so you can get started on your journey to a faster race time.
5) It Promotes Weight Loss
No rule forbids you from incorporating both cardio and strength training into your usual exercise regimen. In fact, combining the two disciplines can help you lose weight and body fat and get your desired figure more efficiently.
While cardio burns more calories in a single session, strength training helps you build muscle, which in turn elevates your metabolism and helps you burn calories even when you’re inactive.
So if losing calories is your ultimate goal, you can have the best of both worlds by including strength training in your workout routine. Just be sure to eat a healthy diet as well to ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need to support your training.