If you’re like most die-hard runners, you love the thought of setting a PR and dread the thought of being sidelined by an injury. Strength training is a powerful tool to both improve performance and prevent injury.
Let’s consider the effects of strength training on running performance. Running well requires adequate joint range of motion, muscular strength and endurance, single-leg stability, and power. Strength training increases your brain’s ability to recruit more muscle fibers and to synchronize the way muscles fire to maximize power. Strengthening your muscles through a full range of motion should improve your mobility, and single-leg strength training exercises such as lunges and single-leg deadlifts should result in greater single-leg stability. Many studies have shown that various strength training programs increase running efficiency, meaning that you use less oxygen to run at a given pace. Research suggests that plyometric (or jump) training is particularly effective.
What about injury prevention? One of the keys to preventing injury is to have the strength to absorb the impact forces involved in running, as well as to land with your joints in optimal alignment. Any imbalances are amplified over miles and miles of landing with poor form. A total body-strength training program can help you develop the muscular strength and endurance to maintain good form over long distances. Upper-body and core-strengthening exercises can help you maintain your form and avoid slouching and compromising your lung capacity in the final miles of a long run. Weak hips are a common culprit in running injuries, so strengthening your glutes can be a ticket to many pain-free miles.
There are countless time-efficient ways to build strength training into your routine. A small investment of time spent building strength will yield big dividends!
Polly de Mille, RN, MA, RCEP, CSCS, USAT 1, is the coordinator of performance services at the Tisch Sports Performance Center at Hospital for Special Surgery. In addition to being a registered nurse, she holds a master’s degree in exercise physiology and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine as a registered clinical exercise physiologist, exercise specialist, and exercise test technologist. She is also a certified USAT Level 1 triathlon coach.