Claire Cason is a Physiotherapist at the Putney Clinic of Physical Therapy. Below she shows how strength training in runners can improve performance, prevent injury and help in injury rehab.
To find out more about Claire, check out her bio here.
Strength or resistance training in runners – What is it?
Resistance training refers to any training designed to improved strength, power and muscle endurance. Specific exercises will involve moving your limbs against resistance provided by your body weight, weights, resistance bands or machines.
Improving running performance
Historically runners have been hesitant to include resistance training alongside their running due to concerns that it has a negative impact on running performance. It was thought that only aerobic training can improve endurance running performance. Recent evidence however suggested that resistance training can have positive impacts on running performance including running economy.
Running economy is how well a runner can efficiently use oxygen whilst running at a certain pace. Runners that require a lower VO2 max at a given speed would have better running economy than those requiring higher levels. The exact mechanism by which resistance training improves running economy hasn’t been identified however it is likely due to improved muscle strength, neurological characteristics and ‘stiffness’ of our muscle-tendon unit to store and release energy. This makes us more efficient with every step.
There is evidence to suggest that issues in strength have been linked to the risk of injury and improving strength can lower the risk of both sports to less than one third and overuse injuries by almost 50%.
There isn’t however a great deal of evidence of resistance training within runners currently but it makes sense that improving your strength will better prepare your tissues to be able to deal with the forces involved in running. However, adding in more training to your schedule isn’t always helpful and you can risk overloading your tissues. It is always sensible to replace a running session with a resistance training session and build on exercises slowly, as well as factoring in sufficient rest.
Resistance training is extremely beneficial as part of a rehabilitation programme following an injury as is very commonly prescribed by healthcare professionals. Rehabilitation programmes are individualised and based on each runner’s needs. Programmes are more effective if targeted towards areas of weakness/deficits, therefore, I would highly recommend being assessed by a physiotherapist/osteopath prior to starting a resistance training programme for an injury.
– Build slowly alongside increasing running distance/mileage. Aim incorporate 1-2 sessions of resistance training per week alongside running.
– Don’t add in extra training sessions, replace a running sessions with a resistance training session. This will reduce the risk of overloading the tissues.
– Leave at least 8 hours between a run and a resistance training session and a 24-48-hour rest period between the same session.
– Ensure you factor in rest days to allow your body to recover.
– Repetitions, sets, volume and load will be dependent on level, type of strength required and period of training particularly if in preparation for a race.
– Seek a healthcare professional’s advice if you sustain an injury during your training as it is important to have an individualized care approach to your rehabilitation.
To find out Claire Cason’s availability and to book an appointment with her, please see her bio page.
Claire can also be followed on Twitter @clairecason1