I come from a long line of runners. My mom, a runner of 40 years, along with me, since I was in 4th grade, and my sister, while not that long, competed at the highest level of Division 1 cross-country and track. While I have seen all the positives that it has provided in my family, I have also seen the negatives. Numerous injuries caused both my mother and sister to be sidelined for extended periods of time. What was missing?
When I started my exercise science journey in college and continued that into physical therapy school, I found out how essential it was to recognize the importance of strength training for cardiovascular fitness, but especially for running. In America today, the average injury rate for runners who do not perform resistance training is 83%. Those runners who stuck to a consistent strength training program saw a reduction in injuries by 85%! No wonder strength training is such a vital component of a runner’s routine. It can enhance performance, prevent injuries, and keep you on the track or trail for years to come. Here are 7 reasons why strength training can help you boost your running performance:
1. Improved Running Economy
Strength training helps runners enhance their running economy, which refers to the energy required to maintain a given running speed. When your muscles are stronger and more efficient, you can cover longer distances with less effort. This efficiency can lead to better race times and increased endurance.
2. Injury Prevention
Runners are susceptible to a range of injuries, from shin splints to IT band syndrome. Strength training can mitigate these risks by strengthening the muscles that support and stabilize your joints. For example, exercises including squats, deadlifts, and lunges can help you maintain proper biomechanics and reduce the risk of overuse injuries.
3. Enhanced Muscle Balance
Running primarily engages specific muscle groups, such as the quadriceps and hamstrings, which can lead to muscle imbalances. Strength training allows you to work on neglected muscle groups, ensuring a balanced and stable body. This, in turn, reduces the risk of compensatory injuries caused by muscle weaknesses.
4. Greater Power and Speed
Stronger muscles can generate more power, enabling you to push off the ground with greater force. This extra power translates into increased speed and improved performance during sprints or uphill runs. Strength training can be the key to breaking through performance plateaus.
5. Better Running Form
Strength training can improve your posture, core stability, and body awareness. This helps you maintain proper running form, which is crucial for preventing injuries and optimizing efficiency. A stable core, for example, allows you to maintain an upright posture and reduce the risk of lower back pain.
6. Recovery and Endurance
Strength training contributes to faster recovery times by promoting blood flow to muscles and reducing muscle soreness. Improved endurance can also result from strength training, as it helps delay the onset of muscle fatigue, allowing you to run longer and harder.
7. Long-Term Joint Health
Running, especially on hard surfaces, can put stress on your joints over time. Strength training helps build muscular support around the joints, reducing the impact forces and protecting your joint health in the long run.
Incorporating Strength Training into Your Running Routine
To reap the benefits of strength training as a runner, it’s crucial to incorporate it into your training plan. A well-rounded routine should include exercises for the core, hips, legs, and upper body at least 2-3 times per week
Strength training isn’t just for bodybuilders; it’s a valuable tool for runners aiming to enhance their performance, prevent injuries, and achieve longevity in the sport. By adding strength training exercises to your running routine, you’ll not only become a stronger and faster runner but also enjoy the satisfaction of improved performance and a reduced risk of injuries. So, lace up your running shoes and hit the gym or use home equipment to unlock your full running potential. Your body will thank you, and your runs will never be the same again!
Thanks for reading,
John Braswell PT, DPT
John is a dedicated Physical Therapist with a passion for helping individuals reclaim their mobility and strength so they can lead healthier lives. Guided by a belief in human potential and the transformative power of encouragement, John is committed to providing everyday athletes with the tools they need to surpass their perceived limitations. John’s philosophy centers around the idea that every individual possesses untapped potential. He firmly believes that health should know no boundaries – everyone deserves the opportunity to receive the undivided attention of a healthcare provider who supports that person’s needs and goals. John’s belief in the power of determination and hard work has shaped not only his work ethic but also his perspective on helping others. It's a value he carries with him into his interactions with patients, where he strives to encourage them to tap into their own reservoirs of potential.