Most runners believe that in order to be better-performing and faster-running machines, they simply need to run more and hone their craft by following a well-designed running program. But, that's only half true.
The other piece of the puzzle comes from a structured resistance-training program. Even if a runner wants to improve their running time at the middle or long distances, strength training is a must to improve.
How does strength training help?
The main reason is to improve our running economy
Running economy basically means that you are more efficient and able to undertake the same distance in less time and with less energy.
There are heaps of studies showing improvements in running economy and that even in trained distance runners that running economy can improve by up to 8% following a period of resistance training. So for a serious runner who undertakes marathons, 8% off of a 4 hour marathon is 20 minutes, so a pretty good improvement - even shaving 10 minutes off a marathon would make most runners pretty happy!
There is a second train of thought that strength training also decreases our injury risk. However there are inconsistent findings in the literature on associations between lower body strength and running injury occurrence.
So the main reason to strength train is to improve our running economy.
What does a typical program that a runner should undertake look like?
What are some examples of exercises people can do at home?
An example gym program for runners might include exercises like:
Power work is also beneficial to improving running economy:
Check out a few strength training exercises here:
Accredited Exercise Physiologist
1. Be prepared
Make sure you have the right gear, which is really just a good supportive pair of footwear and if you're female a good fitting bra. That’s the beauty of running. You don’t actually need fancy workout clothes, a top of the range GPS tracking watch, or a running coach, you just need decent footwear and a desire to get started.
2. Stop procrastinating and just get started
You might feel overwhelmed by how to start running – do you need the fancy watch, a program for what you should be doing or anything else, but just getting started and forming a habit of undertaking regular exercise is the first step. On your first run, try and set a time that you are going to be out exercising for - that might be as little as 20 minutes including your warm up and cool down. And don’t expect that you are going to be able to jog for the whole time you are out on your first run.
3. Use the walk run method
As it says, this is a training method where you undertake walking and jogging intervals throughout your training session. Following your warm up you might start with jogging for 1 minute, followed by walking for 4 minutes, repeating that cycle for 4 times. As your fitness improves you can slowly increase the amount of time that you jog, and decrease your walking time – so after 4 weeks it might be a cycle of 4 mins jogging, and 1 minute walking. It’s always good to finish with a walking segment to cool down, and then end with stretches.
If you have a higher level of base fitness, you might start straight at 3 mins jogging and 2 minute walking or even more. Basically you want to be at about a 6 or 7 out of 10 in terms of challenge or exertion level by the end of your jogging interval.
Some of the mistakes people make are trying to do too much too soon which can lead to injury or burnout.
So, when you are starting out don’t try and run too fast, try and stick to a steady cruisy pace that you can maintain for the entire run.
When progressing your running program, you need to progress the total time of your runs, or frequency of running each week slowly. If you have worked up to 3 times a week for 20 minutes continuously – you're undertaking 60 minutes of jogging each week. To progress that we want to use the 10% per week rule. Therefore the following week would include 66 minutes in total. Or 3 x 22 minutes.
5. Use tools to keep you inspired
Keep a running journal, or use an app like map my run which can track your distance, pace, and even talk to you along the way.
Run with a friend
Find a running partner as it can then become a social catch up as well.
Your favourite music played through your phone or ipod can motivate you; or search spotify for a running playlist; or make your own playlist of motivating music. There are also apps which will select songs with the same beats per minute as your running cadence to keep you on track.
Podcasts or movies
Listening to a favourite podcast, or if your’re on the treadmill catching up on your favourite netflix episodes can help the time pass quickly.
Interval training apps
There are a number of interval training apps that you can download for free or purchase that you can program your planned work:rest schedule into so that it beeps to let you know when to run/walk. I use seconds pro for my workouts but there are many others in the app store.
Accredited Exercise Physiologist.