When I was 14 years old I had an injury where I could not run so one of my friends who ran the sprints at school asked me whether I wanted to go to the gym with him to lift weights. I thought he was crazy, I am a middle distance runner why would I want to bulk up by lifting weights. He then explained to me that I would not bulk up since we would not be lifting heavy and that if I incorporated a program of weight lifting into my training regimen I probably would not get injured as often and would likely run faster due to the increased strength I would have gained. This was all music to my ears, especially the run faster part. I cautiously went with him to the gym and from then onwards was never afraid to lift a weight. In fact, afterwards found out that all runners of every distance lift weights for primarily two reasons, to avoid injury and to run faster by being stronger.
Every runner of every distance persuasion can benefit from a strength training program which uses weights, or other mechanisms to increase overall strength. From the weekend 5k to the end of season marathon runner, all will be better runners by being stronger.
Let us dispel some myths before moving on.
Myth - Lifting weights will bulk me up.
Lifting light weights with more repetitions will increase your endurance. If you not eating a diet rich in protein then the chances of gaining weight through more muscles is very minimal.
Myth – Lifting weights will decrease my flexibility.
Running long distances will decrease your flexibility if you do not incorporate stretching into your fitness program. All runners need to stretch to maintain their flexibility, especially as they age. So lifting weights will not decrease your flexibility, not stretching will decrease your flexibility.
Lifting weights can also be described as resistance training. In this training method you are attempting to condition your muscles to bear an increased amount of resistance against it. Over time the increased muscle strength gained will allow the runner to better handle the weakening muscles caused by fatigue during a race.
Lifting weights will also allow a runner to work muscles that are routinely not fully exercised during the running motion. In many instances these muscles can become imbalanced from the other opposing muscles. In a racing situation the opposing strong muscles will have to work harder than the weaker muscle. By increasing the strength of all the muscles the resistance placed on them will be more evenly distributed and will allow the runner to effectively run stronger for longer.
If you have any concerns about starting in a weight lifting program, start light. Lift light weights and gradually over time increase the amount of weight and gauge how you look and feel. If it works for you, continue and if it does not, then stop. However, give it a try and I expect you will see the same benefits I saw many years ago.
Written by Speedy Sneakers Walking and Running Clubs for Women. With club locations in Dublin and Westerville Ohio, Speedy Sneakers offer a non-competitive training environment for runners and walkers of all abilities and fitness levels.