Thursday, June 28, 2012

Become a Stronger Runner Through Strength Training

It's time for another guest post, and one I'll do a follow up on from my own experiences related to cross and strength training. Something that is often overlooked when the focus is all too often on the weekly mileage.

Runners know the pure pleasure of finishing a morning jog, a marathon or even an ultramarathon. The sweat, the breath, the adrenaline pumping through your veins - all of these things come together at the end of a long run to make you feel strong and healthy. But there is something extra that runners should add to their routine to make them feel even stronger; weight training.

We all know that weight training is good for the body, but many runners ignore this vital part of the exercise trifecta (which consists of cardio, stretching and strength training). There are numerous reasons why people shun the strength building part of their workout routine. Some think they don’t have time for it, some think it isn’t necessary and some are afraid they will become too bulky. However, if you really want to optimize your fitness, you need to incorporate strength training into your weekly exercise routine.

For runners, the benefits of strength training cannot be overemphasized. For one, strength training puts stress on the bones. This works to increase bone density and decrease the risk of osteoporosis. This is especially important for long-distance runners who can have poor bone health due to increased levels of cortisol in the blood. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is released in response to stress. In addition to a number of other effects, cortisol works to decrease bone formation and bone density, and strength training can help to offset that effect.

Strength training (particularly resistance training) can also improve flexibility, if the routine involves full-range workouts, such as curl ups and leg extensions. And when combined with cardio (such as running), strength training helps maximize the body’s ability to burn fat. This is because your body continues to burn calories after your strength workout to heal torn muscle fibers. Most importantly, strength training can reduce your risk of knee, back and other joint injuries, because it builds up the muscles that support your joints and lower back.

For many, the idea of strength training conjures up thoughts of body builders and heavy machinery, but there are actually several different forms of strength training; resistance training, weight training and isometric training. Resistance training is a phrase that can be used to describe all forms of strength training but specifically refers to strength exercises that work against an opposing force generated by resistance. Weight training is a form of resistance training that uses gravity or elastic/hydraulic resistance to oppose muscle contraction, and isometric training involves the contraction of a specific muscle group but no joint movement. Isometric exercises only work to maintain muscle strength, not build it.

If you are a runner who is interested in starting a regular strength training routine, it is best to first consult a personal trainer or sports medicine professional. They can help you build a regimen that is perfect for your body type.

Alvina Lopez, a freelance writer who also volunteers at a local literacy organization, is passionate about education trends and reform. When not writing or teaching, Alvina loves cooking, walking her dog and enjoying the great outdoors. She welcomes questions and comments at



  1. Love the tips! I've started hearing a lot about strength training for long distance runners, guess I'll finally take the plunge!

  2. One or two sessions a week of heavy squats and deadlifts will make running up hills a breeze!

    Don't do any light weight, high rep stuff for so-called endurance. Low reps (<5) at a heavy weight won't put on unwanted bulk. It will get you stronger to run faster, longer and with less risk of injury.

  3. Good luck with your training, Crista! And thanks for the advice, trainingadventures. Glad you all enjoyed the post!

  4. I believe in the saying, "No pain, no gain" but we need to remember we should also give importance to our body, if we know we are already overdoing it, we should at least slow down. Becoming a runner is not an easy thing, there are many things we need to consider especially our health.

    1. I agree Ray, the important thing is to listen to your body and learn the difference between the pain of an injury and the discomfort of training.

      Without discomfort in training, you're really just practicing!

  5. Ultra marathon training plan I am impressed. I don't think Ive met anyone who knows as much about this subject as you do. You are truly well informed and very intelligent. You wrote something that people could understand and made the subject intriguing for everyone. Really, great blog you have got here.