Distance runners, generally, are loathe to spend time training in a weight room, unless its on a treadmill when the weather is particularly brutal. But research – and the experience of top runners – is finding that the benefits of weight training, for male and female runners, are too important to ignore.
Why Runners Don’t LiftPart of the appeal to running is that it’s a pure sport: good shoes, shorts, a warm up and an interesting course make for a perfect day.
For many runners, time spent training in the weight room is better spent running: increased mileage put in a running log is like money in the bank.
There’s also the misperception that weight lifting will make a runner tight or add extra muscle weight that will slow them down. And, unless a workout is tailored to a runner’s needs, that’s true. A football player’s weight room program needs to be different than a distance runner’s.
There’s the fear factor. Some runners are intimidated going into a weight room that’s jammed with “muscleheads” pumping enormous weights and their lack of weight lifting knowledge exacerbates their unease.
For Runners Weight Lifting has a Heavy UpsideNevertheless, the benefits for runners are enormous. Among them:
- Weight training reduces the recurrence of hip and back pain.
- It strengthens connective tissue, muscle and bone.
- Studies show 10 weeks of moderate strength training can cut over a minute from most runner’s 10K times.
- Research shows runner’s-knee pain can be lessened or eliminated with six weeks of weight training.
- Increased stability allows more efficient running, reducing oxygen needs.
- Finally, weight-trained runners are resistant to injury and, when injuries do occur, they’re likely to be less severe so you can get back into action more quickly.
A Strategy for Getting into the Weight RoomRunning places huge stresses on your body and you have to be careful of overtraining. That’s why taking a “seasonal” approach to lifting helps.
Competitive runners can break cycles into in-season, post-season and pre-season segments. For recreational runners, your in-season would be the time during which you plan to put in the most mileage. Those cycles can be broken into microcycles, shorter period of time that would require weight volume changes in your workout. You can learn more about periodization in this article.
Pre-Season Training Sets a FoundationPre-season training helps you set a base that should last into your competitive season. This is when you’ll see the biggest gains in your overall strength.
You’ll need to spend three days a week in the weight room for 10-12 weeks prior to your season. You’ll use weights that are 80 percent or so of your tested one-rep maximum (1RM), for 3-4 sets of 5-6 reps.
Try to add 5 pounds to your weights each week and get a day’s rest between workouts for recovery.
Maintaining In-Season Lifting is CriticalIn-season lifting is important because, ideally, you’d like to continue to build or maintain strength through the season, peaking as other runners grow weaker. Lift once – or, better – twice a week; two sets of 8-10 reps at 60-65 percent of your 1RM.
Lift twice a week and you’ll be stronger when the big races occur. Listen to your body; take a light day of lifting when needed.
Ah, Recovery – Post-Season is About RenewalPost-season is for recovery. It’s also a good time to assess and plan workouts based on your season’s success. That assessment often prompts some to jump into the weight room and start pushing bigger weights.
Don’t do it ... at least not right away. For three to five weeks, ease into the weights with a twice a week workout one set of 8-12 reps in the 60% 1RM range. Focus on form, be patient and resist the urge to increase your weights too rapidly. The second stage of post-season lifting should see you back to three sets of 8-12 reps at 65-70%. Lift with reduced rest between sets, say a minute to a minute-and-a-half.
How to Make Your Lifting Time More Productive
- Train on a schedule.
- Keep weight logs just like the mileage logs you keep.
- Lift with a partner, or as part of a group and push each other to get better.
- Set goals, be it more weight, more reps or even attendance. And write it down.
Work your core every day, with a minimum of four sessions of 200 to 400 reps (make sure you work your entire core); it’s all about stability and that’s where it starts. And remember that lifting just once a week will give you the same kind of results that running once a week would – slim to none.