Saturday, October 9, 2010

Strength Training for Runners

As a runner, you may not think of strength training as necessary.  After all, you're a runner, not a body builder.  Why on Earth should you be pumping iron, or clanking those plates together on the machine.  To run, you just need to run, right?

Well, not so fast. First of all, strength training doesn't mean you have to get big and bulky.  As a runner, you want to stay lean and strong with a lot of muscular endurance.  In addition, strength training will help prevent injuries since you will be strengthening the surrounding muscles that support and aid your running.

Because you are not trying to get bigger, you don't need to go to a gym where you have thousands of pounds of weights at your disposal.  You can work out anywhere you want.  I actually work out at the Y twice per week, but I used to work out at home.  It's really up to you.  You can do all you need to do with a simple set of dumbbells and push up bars.

Personally, I think you should work all your major muscle groups.  I know a lot of people who just do curls or just do the bench press.  To me, it looks really strange to see really big guys with tiny little legs.

Here's what I suggest you do twice per week (not back to back..I like Tuesdays and Thursdays):

  1. Chest: Push Ups.  For more of a challenge, use push up bars.  These look like two handles.  You support yourself on these handles, and now when you do a push up, you have to use more range of motion to reach the floor.
  2. Back: Dumbbell Row
  3. Biceps: Curls - I alternate between palm up and sideways (like holding a can of soda)
  4. Triceps: Tricep Curls or Dips
  5. Glutes: Squats - just make sure your knee doesn't go past your foot.
  6. Legs: Lunges and Calf Raises
  7. Abs: Crunches or Bicycle (lay on your back and alternate elbow to opposite knee)
If you are going to work out at the gym, I suggest you use the machines for the exercises above, especially if you are alone.  I only like the free weights if I have a spotter with me...just in case.

For gym workouts on the machines, or with free weights, I suggest you only lift 50-60% of your max. In other words, if the most you can bench press (with good form) for one rep is 200 lbs, then you will be working out with 100 lbs and no more than 120 lbs.

Do 3 sets of 10-12 reps for each exercise.  This will build lean muscle and build muscular endurance without making you "bulk up".  If you are a complete newbie, and don't know what a rep or a set is, it's pretty simple.  A rep is lifting the weight 1 time.  12 reps, would be lifting it 12 times.  When you do this 10-12 times, that is a set.  So 3 sets, would be lifting the weight 10-12 times, taking a short rest, and repeating two more times.

Key points to remember when weight training: Exhale when you lift and inhale when you lower the weight back down.  Lift slow and controlled.  I like to lift the weight for a two count (two seconds to lift the weight), and lower it the same, rather than firing the weight up and flying back down. Technically, you should lift for a two count and lower it with a 4 count. I can't do it, so it's hard for me to insist that you do.

Hopefully that helps you.  I've seen my times really improve with the addition of weight training.  It will help you too.  If you have questions, you can always contact me and I'd be happy to help.

Happy Trails!

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