Is strength training necessary for runners? Let’s think about this for a minute. You’re essentially catapulting your body through the air and landing on only one foot at a time which is all done at a very high rate of speed. You need balance and control to pull off this feat, plus you are repeating this motion multiple times over and over again. If your body is not strong or “in control” during this action this is when injuries tend to creep up.
Here’s a quote from one of my favorite running resources, Anatomy of Runners by Jay Dicharry. “Running is just a bunch of single leg squats with a flight phase in between… Each time you land, you are basically falling from the sky and touching down with a force that is much higher then your body weight. And this force doesn’t just act on you from one side. It’s trying to sink your “canoe” with 250 percent of you body weight, tipping it forward and back with 50 percent of your body weight, and trying to tip you over sideways with 20 percent of your body weight.”
So back to my first question, Is strength training necessary for runners? The answer is YES! Build a strong foundation to enable you to become a better, more well-rounded runner. Will it keep all of your injuries at bay? Of course not. You should know by now that I don’t give empty promises. There are way too many elements to running, training, racing and so on that no one could ever promise that. But what I can say is if you include strength training into your routine, you will absolutely experience the benefits and quite possibly avoid a few future injuries.
I put together a few essential exercises that can easily be incorporated into anyone’s routine. These don’t require much, if not any, equipment so there is no need for a gym membership. You can download the pdf here: Strength Training for Runners
If you’re starting from scratch be sure to begin with the lowest intensity option. Go through each exercise twice, two times a week and build from there. I’d recommend doing about 10 reps of each exercise, depending on your starting level of ability. I can’t stress enough that these exercises are meant to help you become a better runner. So if you’re experiencing more pain then your typical muscle soreness while doing any of these exercises then go back to a lower intensity by altering the exercise, performing less repetitions or cutting back to only once a week. I’ve seen great improvements with runners who are only including strength training once a week. It doesn’t sound like enough to make a difference but when it’s compared to none at all it can really help to make a positive impact on your strength and balance.
So start off with a small goal and try to have a consistent routine for the next 4 to 6 weeks. Make some notes on how your first few workouts feel versus the same ones in a few weeks. Have fun with it and test your body’s potential in more ways then just running.