Should runners be strength training?
There is conflicting research as to whether strength conditioning has a beneficial effect on running performance. Should we hit the gym and push weights? Do we need to incorporate interval training into our regime?
Before we go into specific training methods, there are certain areas we should consider first in becoming a better runner. These include running speed, running economy and time to exhaustion. Running speed is important as we will be able to achieve the time we have been aiming for and this can be improved through improvements to running technique and also specific training methods. Running economy is about being efficient and not expelling unnecessary energy in propelling ourselves forward. As runners, we all want to reduce the time to exhaustion and this means increasing our lactate threshold, our body’s effectiveness in processing the build up of lactic acid so we do not fatigue too quickly.
Recent research has concluded that high intensity whole body training sessions significantly reduce time to exhaustion during endurance running. So what does this mean? Exercises such as squats, jump squats, mountain climbers, jumping jacks, walking lunges, lunge jumps, plank to push up...the list goes on… incorporated into a circuit, can help you become a more efficient runner. Write down 4 exercises into a circuit and perform 20-30 seconds each exercise without rest. Once complete, rest for 45 seconds and repeat twice. Three to four circuits of different exercises in a training session will definitely make you feel worked, but worth that endorphin rush!
Interval training has also been shown to aid the runner in becoming faster and reducing time to exhaustion. All you need is a pair of trainers and a watch! You can either incorporate interval training as part of a run route or you can use two fixed markers (approximately 20 metres apart) to sprint between. Before you indulge in this, a full progressive warm up is advised and this should be over a 8-10 minute period and you should be lightly sweating before you start. Perform 8-10 sprints, jogging back to the start for recovery. The aim is to sprint as fast as possible so that your heart rate is taken to its maximum and your breathing will markedly get faster. It will be tough but this type of training can take as little as 15 minutes, great for those lunch time training sessions.
Remember, always perform a comprehensive warm up and cool down, stay on top of your stretching. If you develop a niggle, get it treated as soon as possible as it rarely just goes away!