One of the biggest challenges I hear from runners who do not do any sort of strength and conditioning training (including mobility, flexibility and soft tissue) is they think it will take too much of their time. It is understandable with such busy schedules and all those miles, that runners often feel tapped out.
But the biggest barrier is typically not lack of time, it’s how and when to do it. In this post, I will explain some sure fire ways to get strength and conditioning into your training regimen to help you reach your run goals!
It Really Doesn’t Take That Much Time
You do not have to spend hours upon hours in the gym to achieve results, especially us runners since our goal is performance. The majority of my athletes, myself included, commit to 2-3 strength and conditioning sessions per week, each lasting anywhere from as little as 30 minutes up to an average of 45-60 minutes. These sessions include everything from foam rolling, dynamic warm up focusing on mobility, core work and either total body or an upper or lower focus.
So as you can see, if you have about 45 minutes to spare, just twice a week, you can get pretty much all the strength and conditioning work you need to make you a stronger, faster and healthier runner!
There are a ton of great resources out there, online, in books and magazines, as well as several different ways to train. Everything from HIIT, MetCon, CrossFit and coach lead fitness, to workouts found online, apps and DVD’s, to even Pilates and yoga, the possibilities seem endless.
What happens to a lot of runners is them thinking they need to try any and everything out there to help make them a better athlete. This lack of consistency in training and/or doing too much can lead to lackluster results, plateaus, burn out or worse, injury due to over training. Leaving many runners either jumping from fad to fad or drop strength and conditioning all together.
The best way to avoid this is finding what works for you and stick with it. There is no one size fits all way of training, and exercise adherence lies heavily on enjoyment and results. Whether it’s at home, in a gym or in a class, finding a program that delivers you great results, you enjoy and can commit to is key to improving your performance!
Keep Focused On Your “Why”
Unlike body builders and figure competitors, the goal of a runner in the weight room is to improve performance, not just appearance (although I will say a well rounded program helps with weight loss and lean muscle). Those training for aesthetics spend the majority of their time “spot training” (focusing on one muscle group at a time), therefore need a good amount of time each session on several (5-7) days per week in order to achieve the type of results that gets them stage or photo ready.
Since your ultimate goals involve running, the majority of your focus should be on your actual running, with strength and conditioning training is supplemental to further improve upon that while keeping you healthy. Like I stated above, not a tremendous amount time is required in the weight room each week in order for a runner to see improvements in their performance. So plan out your running FIRST, then work your strength and conditioning into your programming.
It’s Perfectly OK to Scale Back When Necessary
Strength and conditioning is not about going as heavy and hard as you can. A well rounded program is progressive, (meaning you begin where you’re at and build from there) and includes not just strength and power, but also flexibility, mobility and soft tissue. So not only do you get stronger, more powerful and faster in a solid program, you also help in recovery and prevent injury.
A solid program takes into consideration where you’re at with your current training cycle. Your lifting needs change with your seasons. You can lift more aggressively during your off season and early in your cycle than you would during peak and heading into race day, when you would focus on less volume and more mobility and soft tissue work.
Along with seasonal adjustments, runners need to take into consideration the effects strength training can have on particularly tough run workouts and long runs. You don’t want to do a crazy heavy lower body lift the day before an intense track workout. So doing a lighter workout the day before to keep your legs fresh for the track and avoid over training is not only acceptable, it’s actually very smart!
Hire a Professional
I tried to simplify these principles to the best of my abilities in hopes to get more runners involved in strength and conditioning. But the best way to ensure you are getting a program that fits your own personal goals and needs, takes into consideration your health history and training abilities, and to get you the results your looking for is to hire a strength coach.