Being a complete runner goes beyond training on the road.
When I was a collegiate runner, my teammates and I headed to the weight room after we finished our morning runs. Our strength-training plan was pretty simple: pull-ups, push-ups, dips and ab work. When I stepped to the starting line of each race, I always wanted to make sure I did everything I could to be at my best. I knew that strength training made me stronger, but I also knew it built mental toughness.
Today, my strength training programs for my clients are much more complex, but the goal is still the same: Build a complete runner, not just a fit runner.
Why All Runners Need Strength Training
When you have a basic understanding of your body and how it works, you have the ability to adjust, plan and predict performance outcome with more accuracy.
With strength training, you need to understand one very important principle known as stage two of General Adaptation Syndrome, a concept founded by endocrinologist Hans Selye 70 years ago. Strength and conditioning coaches continue to build their programs around this principle. Simply put, if you apply stress to the body—weight training, for example—and you continue to do so week after week, the body will adapt to the stressors. If you continue strength training with progressive workouts, your body will increase its capability of recruiting more muscle fibers, and pushing more oxygen and blood to the necessary areas of the body.
Many runners are quite content with just getting in their weekly runs. While running promotes cardiovascular health, weight loss, and an escape from the daily grind, it is not a complete program. If we were to look at measurable data, such as strength, speed, power, endurance, balance and coordination, running only improves endurance. Running is simply not enough.
Strength training can improve fitness in all of the previously mentioned categories. The benefits of strength training go beyond just getter stronger—you can develop better body mechanics, which will in turn help you to be a more efficient runner. You will use less energy, have more force production, and reduce your chance of injury. Strength training will also increase bone density and muscle tone, boost your metabolism, and improve your posture.