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Why Endurance Athletes Need Strength Training - Benefits and Techniques!

Running and weight training - yes! But, it's about training smarter for YOU and building up slowly. Strong, stable, coordinated, athletic bodies do not break down as much. They produce more power output, and they are more resilient in their running and lifting. In general, runners who lift weights have better running form and are less prone to injury because their bodies are overall stronger. But, as we know, training for running and endurance events takes quite a bit of time, and it can be easy for endurance athletes to dismiss strength training as ‘only if I have time for it’ or 'it will hinder my other training' and more! However, a little bit of time should definitely be made for it, scientifically and historically, strength training has had a positive impact on the body and endurance sports such as running. Studies show distance runners who participated in a strength training program were able to improve their leg strength and neuromuscular function, which equals stronger, better, faster runner and less prone to injury!

Figuring out your proper schedule is very individualized, but it should be integrated, and built up slowly, while focusing on proper form. And like many other aspects of training, figuring out exactly the right amount, timing and weight is largely individualized and determined via trial and error. You cannot compare your hybrid training to someone else or try to do what someone else is doing. Additionally, if you don’t have any prior strength training experience, working with a qualified personal trainer that has a good understanding of mechanics to assist with ensuring you have proper form is recommended. If a runner is going to allocate time to strength training for the purpose of improving their performance, they should maximize their efficiency and time spent. The goal is to overall become a stronger athlete, yes, you are an athlete, and to reach your goals more effectively.

How many days a week? GOOD NEWS, many studies have found that strength training just one to two days per week can maintain lean muscle mass and even increase power output. So runners, make sure you are dedicating at least one or two full day to strength training! *que new program coming!!* With that said, you can obviously dedicate more strength training days, and do 'two-a-days' if you are advanced. How many days largely depends on where you are in your current training schedule, your goals and fitness level. For instance, if you are far out from a race, or in an "off" season (I love to look at my hybrid training as seasons), you CAN and should strength train 3-4 days per week. Then for runners closer to their race, who are fully engulfed in their run training, logging high mileage and nearing or in their taper, incorporating strength training 1-2 times a week is good.

Tip- keep your easy training days easy, and hard training days hard. If you are always going hard, you will not recovery properly. So doing this allows your body and mind to recover, rebuild and progress as well as prevent burnout and injury.

Does order matter? This is a very common question – what order do I perform my run workouts or resistance training? This is particularly important if you are training for a race, and still want to get the most out of your lifts, maintain muscle and get stronger. Studies show, and prove, that if you want to maximize your efforts in both running and lifting, if you want to progress and perform well, if you want to prevent injury, then allowing enough recovery between the two is ideal, especially if you are training for an endurance event like a marathon (that is why I will typically break up my two - one in morning, one in afternoon unless it is just an easy light run). Research has proven that 6 or more hours between workouts is ideal.

  • Running workout followed by strength training (six hours between training sessions)

  • Strength-training session followed by running (six hours between training sessions)

There is no one-size-fits-all running and strength training schedule. You’ll need to find the one that works best for you. Trial and error is key as well as apply the principal of progressive overload. You can alternated days, try two-a-days depending on how often you are running and lifting, but always making sure to incorporate rest, recovery, sleep and sufficient food and hydration (food is fuel and you need to support what your body is doing for you, so EATING ENOUGH!).

There are a couple main areas of physiology and exercise science that pertain to strength training, running and all areas of fitness - the overload principle. The overload principle states that a greater than normal stress on the body needs to be present for a training adaptation to occur. Regarding strength training, the overload principle can relate to different physiological adaptations, such as muscular endurance or power. Your specific strength training should pertain to your other mode of fitness as well, for instance, running. Running is a single leg plyometric movement, you're essentially hoping forward from one leg to another. There are a couple main areas of running, propulsion and breaking, gracefully tripping over your feet. So you need strong hips, ankles, hamstrings, glutes, arms, core, and all. Which means you're strength training needs to be functional in regards to that. This often means replicating movements and ranges of motion as closely as possible to the sport being trained for.

This is why in my Commit Programs I have incorporated 'sport specific' and functional exercises to make you an overall better runner, athlete and just overall being stronger at life.

So my endurance athletes, make sure you are adding in resistance training, even if it is 1-2 days a week. You got this!

Your coach, Melissa

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