Running and Strength Training

Overuse injuries are common for runners due to high volume or high intensity running with poor posture and poor running mechanics. Weaknesses or poor muscle activation in the trunk, hips and lower legs can cause problems elsewhere.

The body uses more energy to fuel poor running mechanics. Runners can often feel they cannot go faster or fatigue prematurely no matter how hard they train. Every time each foot hits the ground the energy is leaked from the body due to poor strength and control. This can be worth valuable time on your run as well as place you at greater risk of injury.

At Pro Physio SA we prescribe strength exercises to runners whether they are recovering from an injury or wanting to improve their overall performance. Strength training has been shown to improve neuromuscular function, increase the percentage of fast twitch muscle fibres and improve tendon stiffness – all of which contribute to faster and more economical running, as well as reduced injury risk.

Many runners are fearful of doing strength training, below are some myths surrounding strength training:

It will slow me down. Strength training under heavy loads or explosive movements increases the recruitment of fast twitch muscle fibres. You need more of these fibres to run fast! Being able to utilise these fast twitch muscle fibres in conjunction with good cardiovascular fitness will improve your speed and efficiency particularly at faster paces and longer distances.

I will get too big. This is a common fear particularly among females. A properly designed strength-training programme should not allow this to happen. Whole body exercises appropriate to the individual and using the right repetition ranges will ensure that strength is achieved without increased muscle size. The key aim of a strength programme should be to train the movement, not just the muscle.

I’m too old to start strength training. It is never too late to start some form of strength training. Strength training can help to maintain muscle and bone mass and improve metabolic function, which is important for long-term health. For the middle to late age runner, strength training can help them reduce injury risk, improve co-ordination and performance.

I’m only new to running. This is the perfect time to begin strength training. Many beginner runners develop lower limb injuries in their first 3 months as they place stress on muscles, tendons and bones that are not accustomed to that stress. By adding some strength training in conjunction to a graduated running programme, they will develop the motor skills necessary to run with good biomechanics and reduce the risk of injury.

The runner is only a teenager and it will stunt their growth. A young adolescent or pre-adolescent athlete doesn’t have to lift weights to improve strength. They can develop strength and co-ordination through whole-body, multi-joint exercises at their own body-weight. Once a good movement base has been developed then some load can be added using other pieces of equipment such as medicine balls, dumbbells or a barbell.

No matter your age or fitness level, if you would like to improve your running performance, reduce the risk of injury or have any other queries regarding running or strength training feel free to make an appointment with one of our friendly Pro Health Care physiotherapists today.

Alex Townsley, Pro Physio SA