By Charles Gallagher
Runners looking for faster times, less body fat, and help preventing, or recovering from, an injury would do well to consider adding a weight lifting routine to their training program.
A properly constructed resistance training program will help you. The key to success is to keep the weights light, and the repetitions of a given exercise, high. This low resistance / high rep approach ensures the benefits from weight training, by helping to increase those slow aerobic muscles fibers, and keep away the bulking, heavy, fast-twitch muscle.
Resistance training for distance runners can help in several ways. First, strength gains can help in circumstances where a runner needs a little extra power, such as going up a hill. It is no secret that you will be better at running hills if you train by running hills. Hill workouts should incorporated into one of your workouts once a week. Find a moderate hill that is about a quarter of a mile long. Run up the hill a your goal pace, don’t speed up this is not speed work! Keep pace and form slowly jog back down the hill an repeat 3- 5 times.. Keep the pace the same as with your speed work if you fall of pace you are done for that hill workout. Add a couple of repeats a week. Remember this is part of a run not the entire workout. This workout will help develop the muscles needed to run hills, the glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors and abdominals. In the gym work on sit-ups, back extensions, and pelvic stabilizing exercises (e.g. one leg squats, hip adduction, hip abduction).
Weights can also help you lose unwanted fat. As a weight training program progresses, you will find that your metabolism increases. The increased metabolism requires a greater expenditure of calories at rest. Thus a leaner individual (less % body fat) will use more calories sitting on the couch, than an individual of the same weight, but higher percentage body fat. The bonus is that the calories for this increased basal metabolic rate come primarily from fat.
Overuse injuries are extremely common in runners. One frequent circumstance is that a certain muscle group becomes shortened, tight and weak as the result of overtraining or a biomechanical problem. This often goes unnoticed by the runner for a considerable period of time until “suddenly” an overuse injury occurs. Resistance training can help show you weak or tight areas before they cause problems. And helps strengthen you’re muscles around vulnerable joints. Likewise, recovery from an injury often involves strengthening or “retraining” a given muscle or group. Call the Institute to get yourself into a strengthening program. Here are a few tips.
- Use smooth controlled motions. Never jerk.
- Between exercises, gently stretch the muscle group you just used, and then the one you are about to use.
- High rep / low resistance. For example, with hip flexion use a weight or resistance that you can comfortably do for 3 sets of 20 reps (plus or minus 5).
- Like running, resistance training should be tough workout, not a painful one. Make sure that you have been instructed in the correct techniques and equipment use.
- Those with prior injuries or health problems should consult their physician or therapist before engaging in weight training.