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Resistance Training for Runners

I finished my final triathlon of the season last weekend and always feel at a loss as to what I should be doing during the off season in order to not lose any fitness but also to improve for the following year’s race season.

I usually stop swimming at the end of September and will resume again in March (I really don’t like doing laps in the pool!) I also switch from biking outdoors to taking spin classes at least twice per week. I do keep running outside as much as possible. When it gets super cold, I head indoors on the treadmill. Last year I did the Polar Bear series to help me stay on track with training and am debating doing the series again.

Resistance Training for Runners

{Source: micoach}

I read on micoach that during the off season 60% of training should be on strength and flexibility training and the other 40% should be running, swimming, and biking. Cross-training helps improve flexibility and increase the amount of power you’re able to generate. The more power you have, the more efficiently you’ll be able to cut through the water, push off the ground during your run, and pedal on steep climbs. Adding Strength and Flexibility training will improve your performance and reduce your risk for injury.

If you’re like most runners, you’ve resisted resistance training. I think you should reconsider. Recent studies are showing that resistance training strengthens your bones, reduces depression, boosts good cholesterol, helps lower the risk of diabetes and even gives older people better cognitive function. Those are just the health benefits! Lifting weights will make you a better runner.

Resistance Training for Runners

Muscle is the largest metabolically active organ in your body. Your heart is a muscle as well. Running makes it more efficient at pumping blood t your other muscles. During resistance exercises, your muscles generate more explosive force than they do in cardio training—your heart is no exception. Adding weights to your workouts strengthens your heart in ways that your weekly long run can’t. Your heart becomes stronger, not just more efficient.

Resistance training has been shown to improve running speed. Nobody knows why.

It helps to remember that a runner is a single piece of equipment. Various leg and foot muscles may propel you down the pat, but a supporting cast of stabilizers, diaphragm, shoulder, arm, and neck muscles—all contribute. The first sign of fatigue is a deteriorating running form. When all your muscles are strong, your legs are liberated to do what they do best.

Resistance Training for RunnersRunning coaches emphasize resistance exercises that load muscles in a manner that replicates running—quads, glutes, and hamstrings. These are fine, even if they neglect the rest of the apparatus. For upper body strength begin with push-ups, pull-ups, and crunches. They can be done right from your living room. Many public trails space out resistance equipment so that you can combine strength training and running workouts.

The benefits and variety these bring to your workouts may turn out to be a revelation. But an even better reason to like them is that being strong simply feels good.

What’s your off-season training plan?


**This post is part of Fitness Friday Link Up on Running Bloggers.**

Resistance Training for Runners

{ 15 comments… add one }

  • Kiersten @ Oh My Veggies October 4, 2013, 10:32 am

    I am so lousy at resistance training. I like cardio SO MUCH MORE. I guess I should get over it, huh? :)

    • Anna October 4, 2013, 8:46 pm

      I prefer cardio over resistance training any day, but I know that the latter will help with the former so I am making an effort this fall/winter to devote more time to resistance training!

  • Chris October 5, 2013, 2:38 pm

    Hey Anna!

    I could not agree more with this post! But you already knew that.
    There is no question that when most runners neglect taking weight training seriously, they are both reducing their genetic potential for running and also definitely upping their injury risk. Glad you wrote this and got it out to your followers. It is important.

    Oh and I love your blog and have nominated you for the Liebster Award.
    Check out everything required at my latest post



    • Anna October 5, 2013, 5:49 pm

      Thanks so much for the nomination Chris, it is truly appreciated.

      Yes, runners shy away from weight training, but it is a crucial element!

  • Mary Lou Harris October 5, 2013, 10:03 pm

    It is so much more difficult to be disciplined with resistance training. I’ve started using resistance bands more frequently because they are compact to travel with and visually bright colors screaming “let’s get with it.

    • Anna October 6, 2013, 9:26 am

      I agree Mary Lou, it is more difficult to stay disciplined with resistance training.

      I’ve started going to a strength, cardio and abs class at my local YMCA 1-2 days per week to help ensure I get strength and resistance training in during the week.

  • Alyssa K October 7, 2013, 11:52 am

    I’m actually trying to figure out my off-season plan. My marathon is in 20 days and I can’t wait to start taking Zumba and Kickboxing classes again.

    • Anna October 7, 2013, 5:29 pm

      Hi Alyssa!

      I agree, I was looking forward to the off season as well. Spin classes resume this week and I’ve been going to strength classes. I’d love to try a kickboxing class!

  • mmmarzipan October 8, 2013, 6:43 pm

    You really inspire me! you told me a while back that even getting back on the treadmill and running for a few minutes was a good start. I am happy to report that, just a couple of months later, I have done a 10km race (in one hour… which I know isn’t record-breaking, but it is awesome for me… especially given that I was on bed rest last year and couldn’t even walk and my baby arrived 8 months ago). Thanks for the encouragement. I am going to stick with gym (light weights, circuit) and treadmill for now… hopefully get some swimming in too. :) All the best! x
    mmmarzipan recently posted…DELICIOUS GREEN LENTIL & VEGGIE SOUP (AKA hello again… & hello autumn!)My Profile

    • Anna October 8, 2013, 8:33 pm

      Aww, thanks so much! I am super impressed by how far you have come, absolutely incredible. Keep up the good work and please keep me posted on how you are doing. :-)

  • Joan October 9, 2013, 4:13 pm

    I’m a big believer in strength training for runners too! Thanks for a good article on it.

    • Anna October 9, 2013, 7:07 pm

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Jenn @ Happy Hour Miles October 12, 2013, 5:55 pm

    I do resistance training every now and then. I love how I feel after a great strength workout, but for whatever reason it’s been difficult for me to stick to a strength routine.

    My goal for the winter months is to incorporate strength three times a week by doing workout DVDs or going to classes at the gym.

    • Anna October 13, 2013, 5:16 pm

      Sounds like a great goal Jenn! Thanks for reading and commenting.

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