Why Runners Should Strength Train

Aerobic exercise is essential to living a healthy life. Numerous studies exist detailing the benefits of aerobic exercise on our cardiovascular health, functional longevity, and self-confidence. One of the most common forms of aerobic exercise is running. Its popularity has led to the creation of competitive and cooperative events for runners, and many people dedicate themselves to this lifestyle entirely.

But there are risks.

Running is extremely beneficial, but it doesn’t cover all the physical needs of the runner. Runners are more prone to injury because of the stress they place on their bodies. Competitive runners can find themselves at a disadvantage without a weight training program. A simple weight training program can make all of the difference for runners and aerobic fitness enthusiasts. Here are a few reasons why:

Strength Training Can Help to Prevent Injury

Runners are always at risk to suffer from injuries at some point. The overuse of muscles and joints can cause pain, joint discomfort and ligament tears that can sideline a runner for extended periods. This can also affect their confidence and commitment after they recover.

Strength training improves muscle strength, and provides more support to your joints as a runner. Stabilizer muscles in the legs will benefit from strength training in particular. Use of joints and muscles in strength training will also improve the flexibility of joints. More support and flexibility will greatly decrease the likelihood of injury while running. Consider this study on injury prevention by Dr. C.A.M Johnston for more information.

Strength Training Makes Runners Faster, and More Efficient

Competitive running demands that participants pace themselves, especially for distance runners. Even sprinters need to think about how much effort they’ll need to give throughout a competition without suffering in the finals. Even with a good diet and regular stretching, fatigue can take a toll. Strength training can give you something more.

Let’s establish the science behind the idea. A study by Dr. Alan P. Jung describes the concept of running economy, which is the relationship between the velocity of a runner and the amount of oxygen required at said velocity. The idea is that people with higher running economies can maintain their velocities for a longer period of time at all levels of intensity. Jung’s study revealed that strength training can noticeably improve running economy, and therefore increase overall performance.

In essence, this means that strength training will increase your efficiency. You’ll be able to maintain speeds more consistently, and have the ability to conserve energy for vital sections of the race.

Strength training also improves the activation of the twitch muscle fibers for sprinting. Key exercises can focus these muscle fiber groups to improve their strength and cause them to activate more quickly. This directly impacts a sprinter’s top speed, and how quickly they reach peak velocity.

Strength Training Improves Endurance

Another result of Jung’s study was the effect on endurance. The ability to last longer during exercise or competitions makes for better results. Strength training, especially in the lower regions, can improve the endurance of the muscles. Stronger muscles will decrease the amount of work each individual muscle has to do, and the muscle as a whole will have a greater support system for motion. Runners won’t tire as quickly with strength training, and can get even more out of their sessions.

Not Everything, But Important

Strength training isn’t the only thing to consider for a runner. Regular stretching and a proper diet are important in their own right. However, strength training is often neglected. It’s a major piece of the puzzle that runners will need to reach their potential.  The right strength training routine can make a world of difference for runners regardless of their goal.

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