You may think because you’re a runner, all you need to do is run. And generally speaking, you’re pretty right. Going out to run is going to make you a better runner. But it’s not the only thing you can do. And especially if your time crunched, not the only thing you can do to be a better runner. So, today, I’m going to give you three tips about strength training to make you a better runner.
Thanks for joining me here today on this show I call Runner’s High. I’m Jesse Funk. And you’re going to want to hit that subscribe button if you haven’t already to stick around for more tips about running every Tuesday and Thursday here on this channel. So, when we’re talking about strength training, you might be thinking about really big muscley guys in the gym grunting and pushing big weights around. But that is really not what we want to do as runners to be better. And there’s different ways you can use strength training in your running routine to be a better runner, not just getting in the gym, and pushing heavy weights. So, I’m going to give you my three tips on how to do that.
And tip number one, this is something I thought about recently when I interviewed Jason Fitzgerald from Strength Running on the Smart Athlete Podcast, another show I do here on this channel that comes out every Friday. Now, I and Jason have both been running for a very long time. He’s a few years older than me, but we started around the same time and have been running since then. I was hoping to find out what’s a little tidbit maybe I’ve forgotten or I didn’t know, what’s something I could get from him that I can incorporate into my own running. And the thing that I’ve done that has helped me feel a little more at ease when I go out to run is using strength training as part of my warm-up.
Now I’ve talked about warm-ups previously and they’re important even when you’re just going out for a long run, doing something easy. I have used kind of functional plyometric kind of warm-ups for a long time, but not really focused so much on what I would consider strength training, which is like, in this case, I’ve added in squats, calf raises and lunges or some kind of stairs, depending on what I want to do for the day into my warm-up, and it’s made the beginning of my run so much more enjoyable. Now, this is rest week for me, so this next part may not be as applicable. We’ll see as time goes on. But I’ve also felt better after the run. So, using strength training in your warm-up is a nice way to get warmed-up and ready to go before you start that easy part of the run. It makes everything smoother.
So, what I do personally, you can choose which you want to do, is bodyweight only. I do two sets of 10, both calf raises, squats and then like I said lunges; could be walking lunges in place lunges or stairs, one of the two. The stairs isn’t always sets of 10. It’s just my basement stairs. It’s like four, five steps to the top when you’re skipping stairs. So, I do that maybe three or four times. And that’s enough along with my leg swings, my dynamic stretching, all those other things that I do in my warm-up to make a noticeable difference for me. So, incorporate some kind of strength training into your warm-up should ease the run a little bit sooner, and make your run overall more quality for that day.
Tip number two, if you’re using strength training, and that is if you’re going to the gym, doing those weights, whether they’re light weights, heavy weights, whatever it is, focus on multi-joint movements. This is also referred to as functional fitness. It doesn’t do us a whole lot of good if we’re just going to focus on, say, bicep curls, or single joint movements or single planes of movement.
Because running is a functional fitness type activity, we’re using all kinds of joints, all kinds of muscles all in concert, we want to focus on similar kinds of movements in the gym. As mentioned with the warm-up, this can be squats, this can be lunges, this can be jump squats, this can be a whole array of things that you can go to. But you want to use things that are going to be multi-joint movements because we use them in concert when we’re running, so we use them in concert when we are strength training. That way everything works together.
It also gives you the ability to work on your joint intendant strength. Now, this is something that isn’t thought about as much by runners, I think, or really people that strength train in general. But something that one of my podcast guests Dr. Keith Baar specializes in. His tip for strength training has to do with lifting heavier weights for lower reps and using that as a way to increase tendon strength. Now it takes much, much more time for your tendons to get stronger than it does for your muscles to get stronger. So, it is important to do things like that to increase your tendon strength to prevent injury.
Now, just going in and trying to heft the heaviest thing you can find, also going to be a potential for injury. So, look more into that before you go down that route. But know it is something to be aware of that you want to pay attention to. So, focus on multi-joint strength, use that multi-joint movements, and then use that tendency to try to work on your tendon joint strength as well to mix up that strength routine.
My third and final tip for you as a runner is to back off of strength training when it’s time to race. So, you want to be strength training, generally speaking, most of the year. But as the load gets heavier with your actual running routine, so you’re working on race pace, you’re working on those heavy kind of workouts where you’re going faster, you’re putting more load on your body, you want to back off of the strength train, because you need your body to be able to recover.
When you’re putting heavy load on it through functional fitness like running, and then also putting heavy load on it with strength training, the ability or the tendency to get injured is going to be much higher. So, you want to back off when it comes to race season. And this could be six, 12 weeks out. It doesn’t mean you stop entirely, but maybe you reduce the weight you’re doing or you reduce the reps you’re doing. It really depends on your particular routine. But that is something you have to take into consideration if you want to reach that peak and not be injured.
So, do you have any other strength training tips you want to share with me and the community? Leave them down in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you. And I’ll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.