How To Fit Strength Training Into Your Running Routine

by | Jan 14, 2019

Investing just an hour a week into strength training will make you a faster, resilient runner. Why? Because running is more than just surviving the miles. To be a great runner you need to train your body thrive in those miles.

Practicing running alone will build your cardio endurance, but to be able to run fast and smooth for 21, 42 or 100km you also need to have power and control – that’s what strength training gives you.

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A Tale of Two Runners

Let’s take two hypothetical runners, Jane and Stacey, both training for their first half marathon in 12 weeks. They’re busy mums with only a few precious hours a week to train… See where I’m going here 😉

Jane spends every training minute running. She follows a plan and does all the necessary runs religiously each week. She builds up her endurance and feels confident she’ll make the distance. But, she starts to feel an ache in her knee and no matter how much she trains, she’s slower than she wants to be.

On race day, Jane finishes. She’s proud of her effort but disappointed she didn’t get the time she wanted and her knee was really sore for the last 5 miles! She’s forced to take a break from running to fix her injury and sadly spends the next 3 months doing rehab before she can properly return to running again. It’s frustrating and disappointing. Jane isn’t sure if running is really worth it…

Stacey on the other hand, includes strength training into her routine. Twice a week, she sacrifices some running time to do a 30 minute strength workout. Like Jane, Stacey finishes the half! Although she also didn’t quite get the time she wanted, she felt great during the run and is excited to continue training. She’s already planning to sign up for her next half soon!

Moral of the story… play the long game! Don’t train just to get through a race, train to be a runner for life. Include strength training into your weekly routine, even if it means you have to sacrifice an hour of running each week.

So, How Often Do You Need To Strength Train?

2-3 times per week is ideal. At least once is a must.

In 2016, a large study found that runners who did 2-3 strength sessions per week for 8-12 weeks had significant improvements in their running economy. They could run further and faster, using up less energy.

When Is The Best Time to Train? Before or After Running?

Personally, I prefer strength training after runs or on rest days because it doesn’t impact my energy for my runs. However, there isn’t a lot of scientific evidence to suggest one time is better than the other. So, find the times that work best for you and fit in to your schedule. The most important thing is that you do strength training, not when you do it.

What Kind Of Strength Training Do You Need to Do?

There are three types of strength training every runner should be doing:

  • Core
  • Plyometrics
  • Recovery

Each method is important and should be included to some degree in your routine.

Core strengthening targets the muscles of your abdominals, back, glutes, thighs and hamstrings. These muscles work hard while you run, so the stronger they are, the better you’ll run.

Plyometrics, like speed work, helps you develop power. This is especially useful towards the end of the race, when you need to push through and run a bit faster.

Recovery workouts are exactly that, a chance for your body to recover from all the other training. These sessions can include things like yoga, stretching and foam rolling. Do at least one recovery session per week, especially if you’re training for a race. 

What Does My Training Schedule Looks Like?

I tend to run 3-4 times per week and strength train 3-4 times per week. The details of each session depend on what I’m training for but the basic elements stay the same. A mistake I often see runners making is cutting back on their strength training when preparing for a race. In fact, it’s critical to maintain strength training during this time and it will ultimately help, not hinder your performance on race day. 

I do all my strength training at home. This makes it much easier to schedule because I’m not dependent on getting to a gym. I squeeze in strength sessions in the evenings while watching tv or taking a break from other things I’m doing around the house. It’s now just part of my routine. I don’t see it as a chore, it’s become a enjoyable part of my routine. 

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Alina is an Australian Physiotherapist, Strength & Conditioning Specialist and avid runner. She works exclusively with runners in injury rehabilitation, prevention and performance improvement. Learn More Here


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