Over the last two weeks we have looked at myths about running: knee pain and stretching. This week we’ll look at the myths about running and strength training. Many people do not believe you need to include strength training if you run. They are, of course, completely different types of exercise, with different purposes. We think of running as an activity that helps us lose weight and stay trim, and strengthening exercises as bulk builders: bulging biceps and that elusive six-pack. This time around we’ll look at how these two forms can be a perfect combination in the quest for fitness and reducing injuries.
Our lifestyles, jobs, even running, can cause imbalances. One solution is to include strength training, maybe a gym session, a video or circuit class. Running alone is not enough to target all muscle groups equally and having an unbalanced body can cause injuries. Your workout should include exercises for your core, legs and upper body. As well as preventing injuries, including a strength routine can also make you faster, as long as you are doing the right kind of exercises that challenge all the right muscle groups.
Exercises in standing using free weights are excellent at targeting those often-weak glutes and adductors. Your workout does not have to mimic your running routine; that almost defeats the objective. The purpose is to make sure the body is balanced and all muscle groups are equal. That does not mean working them all equally.
You are exercising for strength so do not focus on low weight-high repetition endurance routines; your endurance training comes from running on the road. Training for strength means safely lifting the maximum weight you can for 6-10 repetitions. Many runners fear that lifting weights will make them gain muscle bulk. Remember, you are only performing 6-10 repetitions. This kind of workout is not about to give you muscles like Rick Wayne when he was Mr Universe. If you don’t believe me, ask him what it takes to build an award-winning physique.
Another consideration is timing; strength training should not be for rest days. Rest days have a purpose: recovery. Strength training needs to be part of your programme. It’s ok to include it on the days you run. Here are some exercises that need little or no equipment:
Squats: Great for the glutes. With feet hip width apart and arms stretched out in front or overhead, lower your hips, aiming to get your thighs parallel to the floor. Remember to keep your back straight, knees behind toes and your weight on your heels. Variation: use dumbbells/kettlebell squats with overhead press.
Deadlifts: Work the back, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, adductors, core and, of course, the arms. Place feet hip-width apart, shoulders back and down, with your grip just outside your legs. Using an overhand grip, slowly straighten the hips and knees, lifting the bar from the ground to thigh level. If it’s difficult keeping your back straight, lift the weights from a step.
Lunges: Good for strengthening and loosening hip muscles. Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Stand with your feet together and take a small step forward. Transfer your weight to your front leg and bend at the hip. Keep your back straight and shoulders back. Stand and return to the starting position. Perform 2-3 sets of 8-10 repetitions on each leg. Variation: static side lungs.
Push-ups: Work the entire body. Start by laying face down with arms positioned slightly wider than your shoulders. Keep the body straight (squeeze the legs and buttocks tight). Lower your body to the ground, then push back up. Variations: push-up with a clap, side-walking push-up.
Basic Plank: Strengthens the core, arms and legs. Lie face down with your hands under your shoulders and forearms on the ground. Push yourself up onto your forearms and toes. Keep your body in a straight line, locking your hips and knees with your head in a neutral position. Variations: Alternate leg lift, side plank, reverse plank.
Remember, tie strength training into your running routine and keep rest days for recovery.
Kim Jackson is a UK-trained physiotherapist with over 20 years of experience. She specializes in musculoskeletal pain and dysfunctional, including back pain and sciatica, stroke and other neuro conditions, plus physiotherapy. She has worked with local, regional and international athletes and teams, treating injuries and analysing biomechanics to improve function and performance.
Ms Jackson is registered with the Allied Health Council and is a member of PASL. She currently works at Bayside Therapy Services in Rodney Bay.