Exercise, Fitness, Postpartum Running, Running, Running Form, Uncategorized

Why is Strength Training Important for Runners?

Most runners prefer to spend their exercise time outside RUNNING, not in the gym strength training. I used to be the same way! 🏃🏼‍♀️

I totally get it. You want to get faster, stronger, and better. The most logical way to achieve those things is to spend more time running!

However, running experts will tell you that strength training will improve your running by helping you get faster, improve your endurance, and better your form.

The stronger you are, the easier it is to carry your body weight over any distance, and the more resistant you’ll be to fatigue along the way.

Janet Hamilton – Owner of Running Strong

In this article, we’re going to review the following:

  • Benefits of Strength Training
  • How Often Should I Strength Train?
  • When Should I Strength Train?
  • What Are the Best Strength Training Exercises?

Benefits of Strength Training

There are sooooo many, but I’m going to share my top 5!

#1 Strength Training Can Help Prevent Injury

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When you run, your body absorbs a force equal to 2-2.5 times your body weight with each step you take. That’s a lot of weight! You’re feet land about 1,300 to 1,600 times per mile. Simply put, running is high impact.

Strength training will help fortify our body so it can tolerate the impact and musculoskeletal demands of running.

It will strengthen your muscles and connective tissues which will allow you to handle higher loads.

Running is a unilateral movement. You’re on on leg at a time. Having more durable and stronger muscles as well as stability will help lower your risk of injury. Incorporating unilateral movements into your strength routine will help correct any muscle imbalances as well. Imbalances are often what lead to injury.

#2 Strength Training Can Improve Your Running Form

Strength training can improve your running form, biomechanics, and stride by increasing your core strength and stability.

When I tried to run at 6 weeks postpartum after my first kid, my form was AWFUL. It’s because I had a terribly weak core due to pregnancy. I had to really focus on strengthening my core.

Think of it like this. You’re running a marathon. Around mile 20, your body starts to fatigue. You’re tired. A strong core will you maintain a more upright posture through the end of your race.

In contrast, a weak core can lead to you hunching over in those last miles of your race which can limit your breathing and lead to side cramps which are the absolute worse!

Building strong glutes and legs will make you a more powerful running, especially going uphill!

#3 Strength Training Can Improve Your Efficiency and Speed

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Strength training workouts can improve your aerobic capacity (VO2 max). It can also help you get faster!

In a review published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, runners who did a strength-training program 2-3 times a week for 8-12 weeks showed significant improvements in running economy, or how efficiently they ran.

And endurance performance and VO2 max, a marker of aerobic fitness, also improved after strength training in a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. 

If you have strong muscles, hard runs won’t feel as hard.

#4 Strength Training Increases Bone Density

This is an important one, especially for women! Low bone density is common for post-menopausal women, but it can affect runners of all ages.

Having strong bones is vital for health and for running.

Strength training increases your bone density because your bones adapt to the stresses that strength workouts place on them by building back stronger. Strength training places your bones under loads which signals to your bones to lay down more bone matrix and minerals so they can get stronger.

#5 Strength Training Improves Your Overall Health and Wellbeing

Strength training helps to reduce blood pressure, improve blood sugar control, and reduce triglycerides and cholesterol.

It’s considered an anabolic workout which means that it builds your body up. Running is considered catabolic which means it breaks your body down.

Strength training will increase your lean body mass and increase your metabolism. The more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns throughout the day, even at rest. You’ll burn more fat.

Strength training can also improve your mental wellbeing. It can empower you and boost your confidence as you are able to lift heavier things and perform complicated exercises and workouts.

How Often Should I Strength Train?

Every runner is different and this will depend on what you’re currently training for, what goals you have, etc.

Ideally, runners should aim to do 2-3 strength workouts a week.

Even if it’s just 15 minutes a workout, you will benefit from it. Do what you can.

You can get a lot done in just 20-30 minutes, so don’t stress about having to pencil in 3-4 hours of additional training each week.

When Should I Strength Train?

Again, every runner is different. Most coaches will recommend you incorporate strength training workouts on your easy run days.

You don’t want to do your strength training on the same day as your hard or long runs. That’ll be hard on your body and you won’t be as efficient in your strength workout or hard run.

If running is your focus, do your run first and then strength train. That could mean you run and then strength train or maybe you run in the AM and strength train in the afternoon/evening.

This is not a hard rule, if you prefer to strength train first, do it! Just keep in mind that your legs might be a little more fatigued during your run.

What Are the Best Strength Training Exercises?

If you follow me on instagram you know that I’m constantly posting exercises and workouts. I often include my favorite strength exercises for runners because I am a runner!

Here are some of my favorites for Lower Body:

  • Squats – all variations ¨̮
  • Deadlifts – conventional, sumo, romanian
  • Single Leg RDL
  • Lunges – forward, reverse, lateral, curtsy
  • Bulgarian Split Squats (rear foot elevated)
  • Step-ups and Step-downs (forward and lateral)
  • Hamstring Curls
  • Glute Bridges
  • Single Leg Glute Bridges
  • Calf Raises
  • Banded Lateral Steps/Monster Walks
  • Clamshells

Here are some of my favorites for Upper Body:

  • Push-ups
  • Bench Press
  • Bent Over Back Row
  • Bicep Curls
  • Tricep Extensions
  • Reverse Fly
  • Shoulder Press
  • Pull-ups

Here are some of my favorites for the Core

  • Bird Dog
  • Planks – front and side variations
  • Ab Roller
  • Hollow Body Hold
  • Dead Bugs
  • Banded Twists
  • Russian Twists

It’s also fun to incorporate some plyometric exercises into your routine when you’re ready to advance.

Equipment wise, I’d recommend a pair of heavy and light dumbbells and small circle resistance bands. You can do a lot with just that.

I hope this helps and that you’re able to run injury free for longer and faster!

As always, please email me or fill out the form below if you have questions or want some help getting started with strength training!



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