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Introduction to strength training for runners
Introduction to strength training for runners

It's no secret that as well as helping to reduce injury risk, strength training can also increase performance too - we'll cover why.

Ben avatar
Written by Ben
Updated over a week ago

Using Runna for strength training

By using Runna, you'll be able to complement your running with a fully personalized strength and conditioning plan that fits alongside your running workouts. This plan will be optimised to you based on your strength ability, the number of workouts a week that you want to do and the equipment that you have available - from bodyweight to gym equipment.

We would recommend that you try and utilise equipment where possible to increase the number of exercises available to you. Even if working out from home, it's worthwhile investing in Kettlebells/Dumbbells and an exercise band.

The strength plans have been designed to help runners reduce the risk of injury and improve running performance.

To get started, head to Manage Plan and configure your Strength plan.

Choosing your strength goal and sessions per week

You will have the flexibility to tailor your strength goal to enhance either your running performance or overall strength. By choosing the 'Running focus' option, your strength sessions will prioritise lower body and core strength, directly benefiting your running performance. If you opt for 'All round strength', you will be set strength sessions that target your full body (this will still compliment your running!). You can choose how many strength sessions to be added to your plan. This will be as follows:

Running Focus

All Round Strength

1 session per week: Legs and core

2 sessions per week: Full Body, Legs and Core

3 sessions per week: Full Body, 2 x Legs and Core

4 sessions per week: Full Body, 2 x Legs and Core, Upper Body

1 session per week: Full body

2 sessions per week: Legs and Core, Upper body

3 sessions per week: Full Body, Legs and Core, Upper Body

4 sessions per week: 2 x Full Body, Legs and Core, Upper Body

Choosing the correct weight

The first and most important thing to consider when choosing which weight to use is your form. You don't want to select a weight that will compromise your form. When trying out a new movement we would suggest trying it first with a very low weight or none at all, whilst considering the teaching points. You should practice like this until you have mastered the form. At this point you can add more weight, but ensure it is not enough to change your form as this could put strain on the wrong parts of the body.

The next thing to consider is that you don't want to be lifting at your absolute maximum. This is because when you lift at your maximum, the next day you be more prone to Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). Whilst many people who are solely focussed on building muscles do lift in this way, it is not ideal for runners as we need to be able to move freely the next day to do our running training.

As a result, you want to be working at about 85-95% of what you could maximally achieve for the number of reps you are doing. For example if you are doing 8 reps, you should use a weight that you could do 10-12 reps with. This will allow your body to gain strength without compromising the rest of your training.

The final thing to consider is that you should feel challenged. You shouldn't just take the lightest weight every time as this will make your strength progression very slow. You can start small, but once you are comfortable with a weight you should start to increase it.

Benefits of strength training for runners

We know that strength training is already beneficial in reducing your injury risk but additionally, it provides a proven performance benefit - helping to improve your running economy by 8-12%.

When you run, your calf (gastrocnemius and soleus combined) muscle will take up to 11x your bodyweight in force and your quads take up to 4x. As a result, it is crucial to make sure your body is conditioned to tolerate these, and other, loads. If your muscles are tired, then these loads are going to be distributed elsewhere, for example, your skeletal system which then may lead to more bone stress injuries.

Aidan, our running physio, says 'By strength training, you'll often get away with more errors within your training, because up to 70% of running injuries are as a result of training errors'.

So by prioritising your strength training, it should make you more resilient, helping with bone density, tendon health and muscle health. And that's before you even think about the performance benefit you get from strength training too. Finally, strength training can be a good way to assess your body for any areas of asymmetry, which are areas to pay attention to when trying to prevent future injury.

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