As crazy as this may actually sound, strength training could be the key to shaving minutes off your marathon time. One of the most neglected areas of fitness for weekend warrior distance runners is strength. Many believe that lifting weights will get them bulkier, add body weight and make running over long distances more difficult. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Before we get stuck into how strength training can help you, let’s clear the air a little. There are a few reasons why strength training won’t add a heap of unwanted body mass. Your muscle fibre type: generally speaking those of us who are capable of running long distances are likely to genetically have a larger portion of type I or slow-twitch muscle fibres. These fibres are likely to experience lower relative hypertrophy (or increase in size), compared to type II or fast-twitch muscle fibres.
Next there is the issue of concurrent training. Studies have shown that endurance training can inhibit the results of a strength training program when compared to strength training alone. So this will also reduce any increases in bulk you may have experienced since the vast majority of your training will have an endurance focus.
And lastly, if not most importantly, how you plan your sessions will influence the results that you achieve. The weight you lift, the sets, repetitions and tempo you use are also elements you can manipulate to focus on different aspects of training and attain a different set of results.
Okay, now that we have gotten that out of the way, let’s get stick into the nitty gritty. How will strength training improve your running?
Numerous studies have shown that following a strength training program can result in an increase in your running economy. One study on female distance runners found a decrease in oxygen consumption and a lower sub-maximal heart rate; this means that as you improve your strength, you will find that running the same distances and speed results in a lower oxygen and energy demands on your body, allowing you to run further and faster.
A full body resistance program will also assist in the development of core body strength. Poor core strength has been shown to be an indicator for your risk of injury. So improving your strength will not only get you running further and faster but also play a big role in injury prevention. So what are you waiting for? Get into the gym today!
Johnston, R.E., T.J. Quinn, R. Kertzer, and N.B. Vroman. Strength training in female distance runners: Impact on running economy. J, Strength and Cond. Res. 11(4): 224 – 229. 1997.
Leetun, D.T., M.L. Ireland, J.D. Wilson, B.T. Ballantyne, and I.M. Davis. Core stability measures as risk factors for lower extremity injury in athletes. Medicine & Sciences in Sports & Exercise, 36(6): 926 – 934. 2004
Leveritt M., P.J. Abernethy, B.K. Barry, P.A. Logan, Concurrent Strength and Endurance Training: A Review. Sports Medicine 28(6): 413 – 427. 1999.