Why strength and conditioning is good for runners
Running is a repetitive activity, with the body performing the same movement over and over again.
Over time this can lead a runner to be prone to injury, especially if there are any flaws in technique. Winter is the perfect time to introduce more resistance training into a training schedule to combat some of these issues.
Strength/Resistance training is important for so many reasons;
• It can help improve the balance and symmetry of your body, improving muscle imbalances. This is likely to reduce your injury risk as muscles and joints will be working in the correct positions and alignment, leading to a reduced risk of abnormal wear and tear on key joints such as the ankle, knee and hip.
• Strength training will help you improve posture. Running more upright will encourage your landing leg to be more underneath your centre of mass as your foot contacts the floor. This has been shown to reduce the force traveling up through the leg, reducing the risk of shin splints and knee pain. It can also help with secondary problems, such as back and shoulder pain. Joint stability will be improved through resistance training, strengthening ligaments and tendons as well as muscles.
• Swapping some of your running sessions for strength and resistance sessions will help to reduce the overload that running can cause on the body. Giving the body a new stimulus to adapt to will encourage new physiological changes which will help to complement your running in the long term.
Beneficial exercises include:
• Squats — a great exercise to strengthen the lower body.
• Lunges — again another great exercise to strengthen the lower body, especially good for knee stability and for working the hamstrings. Also a great exercise for your core.
• Power / plyometric exercises like box jumps and squat jumps will help especially if you run off road or do faster sprint work as they work the fast twitch muscle fibres which do less work during longer duration running. They can also help to condition the Achilles tendon and calf, meaning problems here are less likely. Plyometric work can also improve your speed and pace.
• Circuit style training, including kettlebells help to improve your all-round functional ability and can help improve body composition. A lower body weight means the knees and ankles bear less weight, helping to reduce the injury risk.
• Calisthenics or bodyweight training is hugely beneficial. It’s not always about lifting heavy weights. I wouldn’t have any clients touching weights until they can sufficiently pull, push, twist and lift their own bodyweight. This is why exercise programs like ZUU (primal movement patterns, e.g. bear crawls and frog squats) are perfect for runners, as they increase mobility and flexibility, particular through the hips.