If you want to run to the best of your ability, you need to take a comprehensive approach to your running routine. This means paying attention to not only your mileage and pace, but other areas of your fitness as well, like flexibility and strength. When you’re pounding pavement every day, making time for strength training is probably the last thing on your mind but for runners, it’s an important part of the equation to perform your best.
1. Calorie Burning
Whether or not you cite weight loss as one of your primary motivators for running, there’s no doubt that burning major calories is a nice benefit of endurance running. Running, however, metabolizes your muscles, breaking down the tissue for fuel; it’s a catabolic workout. In terms of weight loss and burning calories, if you aren’t rebuilding that muscle you're losing through running, you’re also losing important lean muscle mass and your calorie burning capabilities. Even if you keep the same pace distance, and intensity, you'll begin to burn fewer calories over time. Runners must strength train to maintain their lean muscle.
2. Injury Prevention
Nearly 82% of all runners will experience a running-related injury in their lifetime. More than half report being injured at any given time. Running is rough on the body, there’s no doubt about it.
The primary movers when running are the quad muscles, and in runners, these tend to overdevelop. While the quads are working overtime, the opposing muscle group the hamstrings and glutes aren’t called on as often during the act of running and tend to be underdeveloped and weak.
Your muscles are what hold your skeleton upright and support your joints. These muscular imbalances will eventually lead to overuse injuries, particularly in the knees and ankles. Training the opposing muscle group with consistent resistance dramatically decrease your risk of these injuries.
3. Improved Performance
You run to run well, right? When you walk, most of the power comes from your calf muscles. Running is different; you're in contact with the ground for a shorter period of time, so you must exert more force quickly to run faster. This power comes from the hips, making hip extension and core stability important variables to focus on. Running will only train these areas to a certain extent, but if you train those muscles separately, progressively challenging them with extra resistance, you'll become a more powerful, efficient runner.
Endurance runners should train all the major muscle groups of their body at least two times per week, focusing on the muscles that will improve your running game: the glutes, hamstrings and core. Don’t skimp on the arms, though: strong arms and shoulders will help you maintain speed.
Core stability is all about how well you can stabilize your upper body on your lower body, so instead of crunches, try isometric exercises like planks and mason twists to see the difference on your runs. Running develops the quads just fine, so focus your leg workouts on the posterior chain. Squats, walking lunges and hamstring curls will do the trick.