Updated: August 29th, 2012

Many endurance runners will often forgo spending time with strength training for one reason or another. But for overall fitness, particularly during the offseason, there are many benefits that can be gained for most any endurance runner, whether it’s for a 5K race or a marathon.

One likely deterrent that prevents runners from considering strength training is the possibility of gaining weight due to increased muscle mass. However with sport specific training such as for endurance running, any weight gain, if any, is minimal. The benefits of strength training for the endurance athlete are hard to ignore, in particular in the reduction of injury, increasing muscular endurance, increased flexibility and stability, increasing lean body mass, enhancing speed, strengthening muscular and connective tissue and performance enhancement. Any or all of these benefits should cause a runner to stop and seriously think about either spending some time with strength training during the running season or the offseason.

What does Stength training mean for runners?

Strength training in itself is not simply just weight training. It’s also core training, bodyweight exercises, stability exercises and flexibility. Obviously for the runner who spends most of the peak running season competing in two or more events each month, having to spend time with strength training might seem too time consuming. Despite of this, runners should realize that it’s easy to overtrain for events during the running season and when this occurs, dramatically increases the likelihood of a sport related injury that could take weeks or months to overcome. The condition of overtraining is known as “overload syndrome” and is the result of repeated, long term stress to the body without incorporating adequate periods of recovery and rest.

What Precautions to Take Before Engaging in Strength Training

For runners who are thinking of trying out strength training for the first time, there are a few basic tasks to be aware before attempting any exercise routine. Safety is first and foremost and for many runners, in particular those who are in their 40s or older, it is highly recommended that they first consult with their personal physician, a chiropractor or a physical therapist. For any individual, regardless of age who is at high risk or heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure or some other metabolic or muscular disease or disorder, it’s very important to consult with a health professional before engaging in a strength training program,

Unfortunately in today’s world, has a physician is not always an option but safety should always been considered whether it’s in a gym, at home or outdoors. Most runners also understand the importance of warming up before a race and it’s also important to warm up before performing any strength training. A typical warm up in a gym can consist of walking on a treadmill, riding a stationary bike or even an elliptical trainer for five to ten minutes, then continue with dynamic stretches, utilizing movement with both the upper and lower body flexibility exercises Other considerations include wearing proper attire (e.g. no sandals or open toed shoes), ensuring that proper form and technique, and of course proper etiquette if training in a gym.

Working with a Fitness Professonal

In order to get started, it might be helpful for many runners to also consult with a fitness professional and maybe engage in a few training sessions together. Of course, as in the case of a physician, having an experienced trainer is not always an option. The internet is an outstanding source of information but it’s important to understand that not all strength training websites are a good source of information.

A typical strength training workout for the endurance runner can consist of using dumbbells and weight machines, and perhaps other training tools such as exercise balls, foam rollers, resistance bands and medicine balls can be used. A training program that is endurance-specific will focus total body strength, core and flexibility. There are an assortment of exercises that a runner can choose to engage in, whether it’s strengthening the hamstrings, quads and lower back with a squat or doing an pushup. Of course it’s not that simple but for runners thinking of venturing into the gym for the first time, one of the biggest mistakes is to use weights without having a basic understanding. And those who don’t can easily be spotted in a gym.

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