A very reasonable question, and one that I have struggled with myself. I used to just think that if I wanted to run faster, that I needed to a) run more and b) run faster. And for many of us, this is just fine. If we currently run 30 miles per week and bump it up to 40 miles per week, then we will get faster. If we stay at 30 and add speedwork, we’ll get faster. The point is, our improvement will advance no matter what, for a while. However, we will all get to a point where we simply just can’t add more of the same thing and expect to see improvement. It’s the law of diminishing returns- the more you put into something, doesn’t mean you’ll see the same amount of improvement. Over time more effort will not yield any improvement and may even have a negative impact. In the end, we are left with a cycle of trying to do more (running via mileage or intensity) but not improving, getting stale, and even increasing our chances of injury or sickness. This is a perfect place for strength training to step in and take all of these barriers away, so let’s take a look at some of the myths surrounding strength training before looking at what the benefits are.
Common Myths about Strength Training
1) We are talking about heavy weights
For the average person, that is not the case. In fact many times we are talking about just using your own body weight. With running specific weight training we take you through a progression of stabilizitation, fixing muscle imbalances, core strength, and general movement. Only after these foundational components are learned, do we begin to have a conversation about your more traditional weight training exercises. Even then, we aren’t talking about lifting weights so big that you need a forklift to spot you!
2) I’m going to put on a bunch of excess weight
Think about it this way, how hard do you train to get 1% faster? Pretty hard right? You spend several hours per week for months, just running. So, spending a bit of time each week strength training isn’t going to allow you to pack on pounds and pounds of muscle. In fact, for a long period of time, most of your changes will come from neuromuscular improvements with no actual change in muscle size at all!
3) I’m going to have to invest a lot of time
Absolutely not! Most routines that we provide are 20-30 minutes in length and can even be as little as 10-15 minutes. We focus on multiple joint exercises and using many muscle groups at one time over just one joint/single muscle group per exercise. Complete beginners may only start with 1-2 days per week, while more advanced folks may add a third. For a week, you may be investing 1-2 hours total.
4) I’m going to have to go to the gym
Nope. Our goal was to give you workout routines that you can do anywhere. In the park after a run, in your hotel on that business trip, during your favorite tv shows after the kids are to bed. No need for gyms, and no need for a ton of equipment. A set of hand weights, a mat, a stability ball, and maybe a foam roller are all that you need (at the most). You can always add more equipment as you see fit (no pun intended).
5) I will lose flexibility
Most runners are weak (in certain areas) and inflexible. Our goal is to make you strong and flexible. Referring back to the myths above, we aren’t spending enough time working out to add a bunch of muscle bulk. Besides, flexibility is developed through stretching muscles and tendons, whereas strength is dictated by doing strength exercises. Your foam stretching routine doesn’t make you weaker, so why would a strength routine make you less flexible?
Many of us have been given a lot of misinformation which has scared us away from adding strength training to our routines. In our next post we’ll talk about some of the tangible benefits of strength training from a health standpoint all the way through running performance.