The nights are getting lighter, the weather is getting warmer and there are lots of people pounding the pavements and clocking up the miles. Running season is now in full flow and it is this time of year that we often speak to runners about how to improve their training and avoid injuries. I am still amazed that despite clear evidence to support the positive effects of strength training on endurance performance and athletes like Sir Mo Farah extolling the virtues of strength training, many runners still avoid lifting any weights.
In this blog we will discuss some of the popular myths we hear from runners who do not undertake any form of weight/resistance/strength training and the benefits of incorporated it into your training program.
Myth #1 – if I do weights I will get heavier
Simply lifting weights will not result in you turning into Arnold Schwarzenegger. Bulking up and getting heavier is not that simple. The shear volume of internet and magazine articles and social media posts about getting ‘ripped’, ‘stacked’ or looking like Tom Hardy or Chris Hemsworth should tell you this.
The volume of weights you need to lift to put on serious muscle mass is way over the amount you would be lifting as part of your running training programme. The amount of time you spend running will far outweigh your time in the gym making it almost impossible to gain weight. If you are, it is more likely to be a nutrition problem than a training issue.
Myth #2 – strength training is an added bonus to running training
For all the reasons I will discuss later in this post, strength training should be a integral part of a running training program to improve performance and reduce risk of injury, not something seen as an added bonus.
Myth #3 – Bodyweight exercises are enough for runners
The forces our body experience during running are much greater than bodyweight exercises alone can train us for. Typically we would expect vertcial ground reaction forces (the force we experience when we land during each step) of at least two times our bodyweight during running – so an average person weighing around 70kg will experience at least 1400N of force (equivalent to ~140kg) during each and every step they take during a training run. Hopefully you can see why doing a bodyweight squat simply will not cut the mustard.
It is recommended for optimal performance that athletes are able to squat at least 2x their own body weight. In fact, during rehabilitation from injury we often require our patients to be able to single leg squat or leg press 1.5x their body weight to ensure they are robust enough to start jumping and running training. In practice therefore, we would expect a 70kg patient to single leg squat with a 35kg external load; or single leg press 105kg.
Myth # 4 – lifting weights will give me DOMS
DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) is most often caused by a high volume of unaccustomed training or eccentric loading. Put simply, if you have a good training programme which is personalised to you, then you are unlikely to experience DOMS. If you have never done any strength training before, then you may experience some soreness after the first few sessions, but as you become accustomed to the strength training then DOMS is unlikely.
The benefits of strength training.
This now brings me nicely onto the benefits of strength training. When done correctly and as part of a well structured program, strength training can both improve performance and reduce injury risk. Strength training can build the platform for injury-free running and a more robust system that has the ability to adhere to the regimen of mileage, speed and tempo work you have set. Here are some of the benefits proven by research:
– increased performance (ie. quicker times)
– increased VO2 max
– improved resting metabolic rate
– improved body composition (more muscle, less fat!)
– improved running economy
– decreased injury rates