| July 24, 2021

Why Lifting is Important for Runners

Many people get into running for its simplicity and association with physical exercise. We all know that being active is important, and running is perceived as a natural method to perform physical activity.

By Trevor Mah

Read time: 4 min.

Many people get into running for its simplicity and association with physical exercise. We all know that being active is important, and running is perceived as a natural method to perform physical activity. However, running on its own is very limited in what it covers for overall physical health.

I do understand that running is it’s own training modality, and there are many people who identify as runners as it is a great way to develop your endurance and heart health. There are also those who are competitive and seek ways to improve their running as a sport. Regardless of your goal, weight training should be incorporated as it provides you an extra edge to your running and round out your overall fitness. This includes all types of runners including both short and long distance. Here are some reasons to include resistance training in your programs to get the most out of your running.

Better Body Composition

If you are someone struggling to lose excess body fat or gain muscle, strength and resistance training will help with both. Lifting weights with a properly developed program can boost your metabolism, kickstart the muscle building process, and burn more energy to help you shed unnecessary weight. If you are overall stronger and lighter, there will be less stress on your joints because your body will be more resilient to the repetitive impact of running. Feeling lighter also means you will move quicker as well.

If you are worried about being too bulky, this is where a proper program comes into play. Adding muscle generally won’t make you slower if you develop proper strength and power. In fact, you are more likely to be faster with weight training because of an increased ability to support your body and produce force while moving. This comes from a higher development of Type 2 fibers that respond better from weight training that aid in strength and performance. Of course, this is based on relative strength gains where you will benefit more compared to absolute strength. All in all, strength training is safe for those who don’t want to gain excess muscle weight if their goal is to avoid bulk.

Another important aspect of resistance training is the anabolic nature of putting on muscle. Compared to longer distance endurance training which is catabolic (degrades muscle and bone density), weight training and hypertrophy can help balance out the negative effects of sole endurance training.

Better Form, Body Mechanics, Injury Prevention

Certain exercises have essential carryover properties which can assist with running. Exercises such as lunges, squats, and even deadlifts can improve musculature in needed areas in the lower body for efficient movement and force production against the ground. Even exercises such as rows and pulldowns can help with proper arm swinging mechanics to help you with your running pattern. Not to mention training a strong core indirectly through multi-joint lifts is essential since your core is the chassis to hold everything together as you run.

A proper resistance training program will assist with working on developing weak areas in order to balance out your body. This in turn allows your body to move more efficiently to avoid unnecessary distribution of forces towards joints that can lead to pain and injury. Structural balance should be a goal for runners who may already be dealing with nagging pain as a means to feel better while performing their activity.

Some common imbalances and weaknesses include, but are not limited to:

  • Weak hamstrings which can cause knee pain
  • Weak/imbalanced calves which can cause poor foot strikes with the ground
  • Imbalanced hips which can cause one side of the body to be overworked
  • Weak core and/or glutes can contribute to lower back pain.

One way to think of how this works is that for every step you take, force is transferred from your foot and works upstream in your body. If there are no muscles strong enough to handle it, then the next part of your body (usually the joints) has to absorb it. That is a short way to explain how some people develop lower back pain from running.

To further highlight the importance of structural balance for runners, think about how many steps are actually performed during a run. For example, we can take this notion of 10,000 daily steps as a common measurement. If you think about those steps as reps, that is essentially 10,000 opportunities for something to go wrong. You certainly would not perform an exercise over a thousand incorrect times with poor form, so your running should not reflect that either. The truth is that overuse injuries creep up, but when they reach their limit, you will know as it develops into a sudden crushing pain. The best way to prevent injuries is to bulletproof your body against them to the best of your ability.

Better Finish

As apropos as this last point is, weight training is important for that final finish in a race. If you are just a recreational runner, then this probably is not as important to you. Nonetheless, having the ability to turn on the jets and be explosive as you near the end is important if you want to beat your best time or if you are competing against others. All runners do need to sprint at some point, even marathoners once they reach the finish line. Training can give you that final edge you need if you have problems with your finish.

To summarize, lifting weights should be an essential component of any avid runner’s program. It helps with shaping your body towards a more ideal composition for health, aids in better performance, prevents injuries, and gives you that competitive edge. Much like how cardio is a complementary aspect to weight lifters, the same thing can be said the other way around too.

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