The vast majority of sports can be performed better with a strong body, and running is no exception. It is a common misconception that the best way to improve your run-game is by running more. Research proves that if you’re a runner looking to run faster or farther, you need to be strong. Read on for five reasons runners should strength train.
1. Increased Speed
Stronger muscles will lead your body to use oxygen more efficiently. You will need less oxygen to achieve a certain speed than you would if you didn’t strength train. In other words, you’ll tire less quickly and be able to sustain your pace longer.
Strength training increases an athlete’s proportion of Type II muscle fibers, AKA: “fast-twitch” muscle fibers. These fibers are responsible for fast and explosive movements, like sprinting, and produce more power than Type I fibers. Even though distance runners rely heavily on slow-twitch fibers, they still benefit immensely from a strength-training program that increases fast-twitch fibers. As a race goes on and Type I fibers fatigue, well-trained Type II fibers will pitch in to speed up your pace or help you crank out the last few miles of the race.
2. Better Body Composition
A popular and misguided solution to shed body fat is to do more cardio. We tend to associate cardio with calories burned, which is totally accurate. However, once we stop that steady-state cardio movement, the benefits stop as well. Strength training boosts the metabolism for up to 36 hours post workout, so that means your body will be reaping the benefits and burning extra calories longer.
Body composition is the percentage of fat, bone, water and muscle in your body. The more lean muscle mass you have, the better your overall body composition will be. Muscle also increases your resting metabolic rate, which means you’ll burn more fat and calories all day as you build muscle.
3. Injury Prevention
A strong body is the best means of protection from injury. If your muscles, ligaments and tendons are strong, they will do a better job of bracing against impact and maintaining consistently good running form. So many runners suffer from runner’s knee, which is actually a consequence of hip dysfunction. Strengthening your hips and glutes is a great form of injury prevention. Good posture is key in running. By strengthening your back and core, you’re making yourself a more efficient runner. In addition to aiding in the prevention of future injuries, strength training can reverse chronic pain. Lifting weights corrects your body’s imbalances that often lead to improper and dangerous running form.
4. Better Sex Life
Endurance training has been shown to take a toll on both men’s and women’s reproductive hormone levels. Recent studies show that intense endurance exercise releases high levels of catabolic hormones, provoking low levels of testosterone in men and low levels of estrogen and progesterone in women. Strength training, however, produces high levels of anabolic hormones that are associated with an increased sex drive. Runners who replace a run or two per week with strength training, specifically high intensity training, will maintain a better balance between the catabolic and anabolic hormones. All in all, runners who strength train have a healthier sex drive.
5. Muscle Degradation Prevention
The same catabolic hormones that affect a runner’s sex drive also degrade muscles and bones. Also, Type II muscle fibers shift to Type I after significant endurance-only training. Many runners worry that strength training will add muscle mass and that they will become heavier and slower. In actuality, the anabolic hormones released when adding strength training to a runner’s workout regimen serve as a balance to prevent muscle degradation. A runner doing a large volume of endurance exercise will see increased speed and endurance after strength training, but not a sizable increase in mass. Think of it as the catabolic and anabolic effects of each training method canceling one another out.