Although many runners don’t incorporate other trainings into their planning than running, weight training has many benefits to this sport.
Not only would it improve performance, it could also prevent the different injuries that can happen to a runner.
Several studies show that combining weight training with cardiovascular training would prolong the duration of the effort as in a long-distance race (Lussier and Toussaint, 2014). Indeed, weight training, especially for the lower limbs, in endurance, namely several repetitions with small loads, increase muscular endurance and therefore, fends off muscle fatigue during a race. When our muscles are not sturdy, they get tired more quickly thus decreasing the running speed during the last kilometers or even or even cause the cessation of the effort for a beginner runner.
It is not only endurance training that can be beneficial, but also strength and power training, for both short and long distance runners. In fact, this type of training will be a priority for a short distance runner (5 km or less) since it will allow him/her to have, among other things, a better stride and a lower energy expenditure for the same speed in addition to using a greater number of muscle fibers (Lussier and Toussaint, 2014). He/she will be more efficient and therefore, may increase his/her speed for a given distance. Nonetheless, the long distance runner will also reap the benefits. First, he/she may notice an increase in his/her cruising speed. What's more, he/she will have more ease during acceleration, the final sprint and the climbs (Lussier and Toussaint, 2014).
In a similar vein, one can also think of plyometric training, that is to say "exercises that solicit the muscles in a precise sequence: a rapid eccentric contraction immediately followed by an explosive concentric contraction" (Lussier and Toussaint, 2013). One can think of a skipping rope for instance which is a good example of a plyometric exercise, or to drop from one box, then immediately jump on another. In turn, plyometrics offers interesting advantages to runners. On the one hand, the foot pressure on the ground is improved since the absorbed energy is better released. On the other hand, the energy needed during the stride is reduced (Chouinard and Lacombe, 2013).
Another very important aspect of muscle training in a runner is the prevention of injury. There are many runners who get hurt because they just run. Yet running is a practice that dates back to a very, very long time. Also, let's remember that "our body has always been adapted and designed to run" (Harvey, 2013). However, from the time when Men ran to hunt and today where they sit in front of their computer, our posture and lifestyle have changed somewhat. This is one of the reasons why incorporating muscle training exercises is paramount. As our muscles are not so strong anymore, we have to strengthen them and get them used to doing certain movements they are not used to doing. In addition, it avoids the imbalances that can occur in running since it is an activity with repetitive movements and in the same axis.
Ultimately, during our annual race training planning, we should integrate muscle training in a more pronounced way from the first 2 to 4 months of the year. It is during these first months that the body is being prepared, given a general shape. Subsequently, we enter the more specific training phase, and then reduce the weight training sessions to one or two sessions per week to ensure maintenance. The number of sessions will depend on the goal at the end of the season (prioritize two muscle training sessions if the goal is rather competitive) (Chouinard and Lacombe, 2013). In short, we must not forget that we quickly lose the skills acquired if they are not maintained.
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Cheers to your health!
SOURCES: - Chouinard, R. et N. Lacombe. 2013. «Course à pied : Le guide d’entraînement et de nutrition». KMag. 321 p. - Harvey, J-F. (2013). «Courir mieux». Les Éditions de l’Homme. 311 p. - Lussier, M. et P-M. Toussaint. (2013). «Mythes et réalités sur la musculation». Les Éditions de l’Homme. 324 p. - Lussier, M. et P-M. Toussaint. (2014). «Mythes et réalités sur la course à pied». Les Éditions de l’Homme. 326 p.