When you’re training for a big endurance event, whether it be a marathon, half marathon or an obstacle course race such as a Tough Mudder or a Spartan, you can’t be afraid to mix things up in your routine.
Even if you’re a long-distance runner pounding out high mileage weeks, hitting the weight room a couple times a week is just as important as pounding the pavement.
In my days of long-distance running, I will admit, I had a small fear of the weight room. Even during some of my toughest training weeks, I thought, why do I really need to lift?
Then, one day in 2009, at the suggestion of a friend in the running community, I broke down and purchased a gym membership. I started lifting weights a few times a week after my runs, something I hadn’t done since high school. That led to me becoming a fitness trainer the following year.
While I don’t run nearly as much as I used to prior to becoming a fitness trainer, there are immense benefits for stepping up to the bar after you step off the track or the roads a few times a week.
One of them is a great resistance training program builds up a strong core. No matter what type of fitness regime you are participating in, a strong core is essential.
That is certainly true for runners, in particular those who specialize in long distances such as the 5K (3.1 miles), 10K (6.2 miles), and up.
As the miles pile up in a race and the legs continue to get fatigued, a strong core and upper body can shave valuable seconds off your time. Exercises such as leg extensions, hovers and/or planks or leg extensions coupled with an overhead extension with a plate or dumbbell while lying down are great ones to build a strong core. Want to show off that runner endurance? Try mountain climbers as well!
Speaking of legs, just because you’re working them on the roads doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work them in the weight room once a week, or maybe every other week. Try not to forget the old gym adage that friends never let friends skip Leg Day.
Having strong quads is beneficial for any long distance runner, and there are plenty of ways you can work them with resistance training.
The age-old favorite, of course, is the barbell squat. If you’re pressing your heels through the floor, keeping your chest lifted, driving your hips back and keeping your knees over your toes, you should feel a connection in the quads. Don’t like squatting? Try seated leg curls, walking or static (in-place) lunges (with free weights or no weight), or leg presses.
But perhaps the biggest mistake anyone can make: Overtraining. Don’t. Do. It.
If you don’t feel as excited about going for that 5-mile run through your neighborhood or if you’re constantly exhausted, chances are you’re overtraining, and you need to mix things up a little bit.
Strengthen those underactive muscles that you don’t utilize as much in your running – such as your shoulders, biceps and triceps – by taking a day off from the roads and heading to the weight room. A balanced body equates to a stronger, happier, healthier body. Your legs need a break once in a while.
Remember, always listen to your body. Sometimes, a little nagging muscle pain can be a loud wake-up call, and signify that a need in a training regime should likely happen.
BDN sportswriter Ryan McLaughlin is also a fitness trainer at Union Street Athletics in Bangor. Follow him on Twitter at rmclaughlin23