Saturday, January 30, 2016

Weight Training for Runners

by Brian Maher, BS, CSCS, Owner, Philly Personal Training.  

After years of being told to just run more to improve their performance, runners are now being advised to add strength training to their plans. While running alone can improve muscle strength for beginners, for more seasoned runners, strength training is required for further gains. Experts say it’s the single best way to prevent injury while increasing speed and power.

Increased aerobic threshold
Regardless of your level or preferred running distance, strength training combined with the proper aerobic training can help you run faster by improving the body’s maximum oxygen uptake, or V02 max, a standard measure of aerobic capacity. A high V02 max translates to sustained running at faster speeds.

Increased speed
Training the lower body with heavy weights will improve a runner’s final sprint pace. The right type of strength training increases the number of fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are most easily exhausted. Training these muscles can make them more powerful and less susceptible to fatigue at the most critical point of the race — the finish line.

Fat loss

For endurance athletes, like runners, weight training can also assist with fat loss. Leaner runners with more muscle have a higher metabolism and resting metabolic rate. Thus, runners with lean muscle mass tend to be faster.

Also, because runners have diets high in carbohydrates, it’s important that a runner’s body efficiently converts carbohydrates into energy, also known as insulin resistance. Strength training helps improve insulin health, which also aids in recovery.

Less injury prone
A stronger body composition can also correct structural and muscular imbalances that may lead to running injuries. For example, runners often experience joint pain and muscle aches resulting from the force of pounding the pavement. Weight training can strengthen the bones and connective tissues to ease any related discomfort. In addition, endurance training is known to produce high levels of cortisol and oxidative stress. To counter these levels of stress, resistance training has been shown to increase antioxidants and decrease inflammation.

The best strength training programs for runners focus on heavy lower body lifting and include movements like squats, deadlifts, step ups and lunges. Runners who are new to strength training should focus on building baseline strength and flexibility first and vary the tempo as strength improves.

For best results, consult with a personal trainer to ensure proper form as well as the right weight and movements that will keep you challenged while being appropriate for your fitness level. Check with your doctor before beginning any fitness program.
Posted by kind permission of Brian Maher.

Brian Maher is the owner of Philly Personal Training, a Philadelphia-based studio offering 1-on-1 personal training, physical therapy, and nutrition counseling. Philly Personal Training is the only personal training studio or gym in Philadelphia that requires its personal trainers to possess a college degree in an exercise-related field, as opposed to a basic certification.

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