Weight training for runners can help you run faster and avoid injury, which is why, even during coronavirus shutdowns, I’m still picking up my admittedly limited set of weights. You don’t need a full bodybuilding setup, or even a full gym, to get the benefits of weight training. All you need are a set of dumbbells and a program.
Building Strength for Running
The most obvious benefit of weight training for runners is building strength. If you’re doing glute exercises, this can help you run faster, especially up hills. Core training can also help you with your running and prevent you from falling if you step in a patch of ice.
But even in your everyday life, you’ll notice that strength training will help you: carrying club-size bags of cat litter and climbing stairs, for example. Later in life, even if you stop running, the strength you build will help slow muscle atrophy that happens as a natural part of the aging process.
Building muscle can help you run faster. No, really. The weight training for runners you’ll do isn’t the bodybuilding type that will build big, bulky muscle. It’s the type that gives you power and speed.
When you strength train, you’ll be working to efficiently recruit muscles, something you do in running. If you focus on form, you’ll be more in touch with how your body works and be able to translate that into your run workouts.
Managing Your Weight with Weight Training for Runners
“But you’re going to get bulky!” I know I’ve heard that at least half a dozen times when I talk about weight training. The truth is, unless you’re eating pounds of chicken breast and likely juicing, weight training isn’t going to make you bulky.
In fact, weight training helps you manage your weight. When you build lean muscle, your metabolism actually increases, since the muscle at rest burns more calories than fat tissue at rest. Long-term, weight training can reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and breast cancer, as well as decreasing the frequency of colds and illnesses by boosting your immune system.
Strengthening Your Bones
Since weight training helps you build strong bones, you’re also decreasing your risk for osteoporosis. (When I had my DEXA scan, I learned that I have excellent bone density for my age. I have no doubt that it’s because I’m lifting and doing weight-bearing exercises.) Basically, you’re less likely to break a bone when you get older.
Remember my weak left glute? I started doing single-sided exercises, like single-leg deadlifts, as part of my weight training for runners routine. This helped correct my imbalance, and I’ve noticed that running has been a lot easier since then.
If you see a physical therapist for an injury, they may prescribe weight training as part of your rehabilitation program. This will help you rebuild muscle and bone flexibility if you’re performing exercises with a full range of motion.
Getting a Brain Boost
I talk a lot about running as my therapy on my Instagram account, and it is. It clears my head like nothing else. But there are a lot of mental benefits to weight training for runners, too.
For starters, lifting can help you deal with depression; you’re moving and doing something and releasing endorphins. Plus, as you continue weight training, you may experience a boost in self-esteem as you become stronger and look fitter. There’s even speculation that weight training can increase your brainpower, which for me is always a welcome benefit.
Ultimately, picking up the dumbbells is good for your running and your health. You’ll run faster and be more resistant to injury, always a good thing!
To get the benefits of weight training for runners, even with a set of dumbbells, I’m going to recommend a product: the RP Gym-Free Templates. I’ve been using this to supplement my own strength training, and you can do this with a single set of dumbbells. Also, I’m not receiving any kind of commission for this – I’m just a fan of it!
Hopefully we’ll all be racing again soon. Until then, alternate some strength training with your runs so that, once racing season begins, you’ll smash your PRs.