Want to Run Faster? Hit the Gym.
In my experience as a competitor, coach and clinician; endurance athletes hate the gym.
Most of the runners that I work with have well-planned running routines. A long run on Sunday, speedwork on Tuesday, Parkrun PB's on Saturday. Perhaps a couple of pilates or yoga sessions midweek to keep the body balanced.
But most runners avoid the gym like the plague, often falling into the trap of thinking strength training is solely the domain of gym-junkies and body-builders.
Why waste precious time lifting weights in the gym if you can be hitting your favourite run trails?
Surely, if you want to run faster, just increase your mileage. Right?...
A well-designed strength program can help you run faster and reduce the risk of overuse injuries.
Evidence published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that runners wanting to improve their performance should incorporate explosive, high-intensity weight sessions into their programs. This runs contrary to the myth that endurance athletes should stick to lifting high repetitions of low-weight to mimic the demands of their sport.
Incorporating two to three explosive weight sessions into your weekly running program improves peak running speed and endurance. After six or more weeks of this kind of strength work, runners can expect to knock a minute or two off their 10km time-trial time.
As a guide, you should aim to lift a weight that is 60-80% of your 1-rep max. Exercises like squats, deadlifts, lunges and calf raises are great to start with, focussing on three to four sets of 5 - 12 repetitions.
But if you've been avoiding strength sessions like the plague, it's crucial to get some professional advice before you go gung-ho with your strength training. Speak to a running coach, or exercise professional to get a tailored training program and some tips on how to lift safely.