Strength Training is for Every Runner
No matter what distance you run there are great benefits to strength training. As a professional
runner for Atlanta Track Club, I’ve gotten to witness this first hand. Our elite team consists of
runners who specialize in distances from 800m all the way up to the marathon and while we
rarely overlap for workouts on the track, we often spend time together in the weight room.
Certainly my lift as an 800m runner is different from that of the marathoners, but we are all in
there with similar goals in mind: Increase speed and carry the groceries from the car to the house
in one trip.
I’m kidding. The second reason is injury prevention, but can confirm, greater grocery carrying
capacity is a benefit as well.
Speed is defined mathematically as speed = stride length x stride frequency. The weight room is
where we have an opportunity to increase the stride length portion of the equation. Exercises that
strengthen the major muscles in the legs, core, and even upper body all contribute to gaining
power and thus greater distance with each step. Not only can such training increase one’s top end
speed for sprint and mid-distance races, but it can also improve efficiency at sub-maximal speeds
thus allowing a runner to sustain the relatively slower paces, at which longer distances are raced,
with less effort. In short, everyone can benefit from increasing speed but not everyone has the
space to regularly fit speed training into their running schedule. Lifting, even just a little bit, is a
great way to build that speed with little interruption to your running program.
Injury prevention is a second major benefit to weight training. We all have imbalances in our
anatomy. Some of them are good, such as the adaptations in left foot/ankle area that track
runners develop to handle the torque associated with constantly turning left, others are
inconsequential, and still others can lead to injury if left unchecked. If possible, working with a
physical therapist to identify which ones need to be addressed and which can be ignored is a
good place to start developing this part of the program.
Unlike lifting to increase speed—which places a greater emphasis on increasing the strength of
the larger muscle groups—lifting for injury prevention tends to focus more on activation of the
larger muscle groups and strengthening of the smaller ones. There is little advantage to squatting
to increase glute strength if you cannot activate the whole muscle body while running. There is
similarly little benefit to those same stronger glutes if a weak tendon in your foot collapses and
cannot translate that added power into the ground with each step. In the latter case, the tendon is
at greater injury risk.
Whether you run the roads or spend the majority of your miles turning left around a track, we all
need speed and no one wants to miss time with an injury. A well-balanced weight program can
achieve both of those goals.
By: Olivia Baker, Atlanta Track Club Elite
If you are looking to add strength training to your routine but are not sure where to start, Fast Bananas has the perfect experts to walk you through this. You can check out our RUNsource Membership where we house strength workouts specifically for runners directly from the experts. You even have the option to try out our 7 day FREE trial to see if the membership is a good fit for you!