Last week I gave a presentation to the Griffin’s Friends running club, in cooperation with Baystate Rehabilitation, titled The 5 Resistance Training Myths for Runners.
Let’s just say that there were a lot of eyebrows raised as we went against the grain of popular belief when it comes to strength training. Don’t get me wrong, there are many benefits to endurance training. However, if the body is not prepared for it, the negatives will outweigh the positives in the form or injury and or sub par performance.
With over 20 years of coaching I have ad the privilege to educate a good deal of runners on how to run stronger, faster and with more efficiency, and not to mention with less pain!
With all the research at our fingertips, there’s still a debate among the general population on whether hitting the weights has any real benefits when it comes to their health and running performance. As with any myth, the misunderstanding comes from outdated information being passed down through the coaching ranks. Many runners repeat the same mundane habits they were taught years ago. We’re creatures of habit and typically don’t like change.
As Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting the same result.”
This brings us to Myth #1: Runners Don’t Need To Resistance Train
If we just looked at the major health benefits of resistance training for all humans, regardless if you run or not, we can set the foundation for this logical argument. Resistance training will contribute to the following:
1. Enhances endocrine and immune function (which are compromised by endurance training)
2. Maintains muscle mass (also negatively affected by endurance training)
3. Improves functional capacity in spite of aging by maintaining maximal strength and power (both of which decrease with prolonged endurance training)
4. Builds bone density (something many runners lack due to poor dietary practices, but desperately need in light of the high risk of stress fractures)
5. Enables us to rapidly correct muscle imbalances, as evidenced by the fact that resistance training is the cornerstone of any good physical therapy program.
Runners are just like the rest of us (physiologically). They may be a little more driven and type A then the rest of the crowd but the science still applies.
Consider these research findings on how implementing a strength program can increase your running economy.
University of Alabama: 10 weeks of resistance training in trained endurance runners improves running economy 8-10%. 20-24 minutes off a 4 hrs marathon – and more if you’re not well trained.
French researchers along with The Research Institute for Olympic Sport at the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland: addition of 2 weight training sessions / week 14 weeks significantly increased maximal strength, running economy, Vo2, and maintained peak power in triathletes. Only endurance training saw no increase in strength and running economy and peak power actually decreased.
University of Illinois: 10 week strength training improved endurance performance by 11-13% during cycling and running respectively. Also, long term cycling to exhaustion at 80% of VO2max increased from 71-85 min after the addition of the strength program.
The take home message is that being a complete runner is more than building an aerobic base and changing your sneakers every 3 months. The formula is about creating muscular strength endurance along with nervous system efficiency. Remember, the better your strength the better your endurance can be.
Next up: Myth #2 The assumption that high reps and light weights are the best way to train if you’re a runner.