How Runners Can Begin a Strength-Training Program

Construct a D.I.Y. Strength-Training Plan

Figuring out how to balance being run-fit and strong overall is the hardest part. Most of us are not professional athletes who have all day to work out—family, jobs and a social life all have to be considered when programming. Before you start a program, answer these questions:

  • What race distance are you training for?
  • What's your strength-training experience?
  • How old are you?

There's no perfect formula to balancing running with strength training, but try to devote two days a week to strength training. There will be some trial and error in the beginning, so it helps to keep a detailed training log to see how the body reacts and adapts to the strength training.

If you are new to strength training, start slow and keep your exercise selection to three or four full-body exercises. Master these movements before you expand your repertoire of exercises. Learn the proper training habits now; this will you give a lifetime of progress. Adding strength training might make your running might feel like a bit of a struggle at first because of the new stress on your body, but if you are consistent, your body will adapt.

When you advance to an intermediate, expand your exercise selection and use heavier weights. Your body will recover more quickly than it did when you started, so you can rest less in between workouts. Set specific goals to help improve your athletic performance, and adjust or re-program as needed along the way.

8 Strength-Training Tips

  1. Learn the proper technique of each exercise. Sign up for personal training sessions or watch videos on youtube.
  2. Do full-body exercises: squats, dead lifts, pull-ups, chin-ups and push-ups.
  3. A basic rep and set scheme should be 5 sets of 5 reps.
  4. Take a rest day or recovery run after a heavy-lifting day.
  5. The first strength workout of the week should be dedicated to heavier weights. Shoot for a 48- to 72-hour rest in between workouts. The second workout of the week should be done with moderate weights.
  6. Four weeks away from a target race, cut down on the intensity and volume to let the body rest.
  7. Get organized by planning your workouts in advance.
  8. Remember stage two of General Adaptation Syndrome: You will have to add stress continuously to receive benefits.

Running, strength training and a proper diet will lead you to the highest level of fitness and optimal health. Think of all of the important measurable data as you age: bone density, maintaining muscle mass, thicker ligaments and tendons and mobility. Strength training addresses all of these, but running does not.

More: Strength Train to Improve Running Economy

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