Why strength training can transform your running

If you want to avoid injury, improve your running form and progress your running fast, the missing magic ingredient is strength training

Strength training which works for women
(copyright Girls Run the World)

Over the last ten years, I’ve coached hundreds of female runners from beginners right the way through to sub 3 hour 30 minute marathon runners – and the one thing that stands out as making the biggest difference to improved running is strength training.

To help the women we coach understand how vital it is to improved running, I like to use the analogy of ball that is pumped up and one that is slightly flat; the pumped up one bounces up high off the floor, the flat one can not lift off the floor or does so poorly.  That’s the difference that a conditioned muscle makes to your running form compared to a running body that has not been conditioned.

How strength training helps you as a runner…

  1. You’ll be able to keep running consistently without having to take time off for injury
  2. It improves your running economy by up to 8%, making you more efficient which means less tired and faster
  3. Improves your ability to create force – exactly what you need to be able to do in order to drive your body off the floor and land with every stride
  4. Improves your V02 max by up to 4%, which is a measure of your aerobic capacity

All of this matters hugely if you’re training for endurance, whether that’s a half marathon, marathon, triathlon, or ultra.

If you take one thing from this post, it is this – in  Sieler’s Hierarch of Endurance Training needs, which ranks eight fundamental training practices in order of proven impact, the fundamental foundation of training is volume – if you become injured because your body is not strong enough, that volume and consistency is undermined.

 

I recently spoke with Chrissie Wellington at the Training Peaks Endurance Coaching Summit and she spoke about her amazing London Marathon time of 2 hours 44 minutes and she credits strength work as the secret to her success;

‘I magnate to do it off the back of strength and conditioning, which meant that I stayed strong off the back of the end of the marathon which becomes even more important as we age.’

How do I fit it in?

All this is all very well and good, I hear you say, but how do I fit in marathon training, relationship, work and family?

This, and lack of understanding about strength training and how to do it are the single biggest reasons that female runner neglect strength training. But it doesn’t need to take long – 10-20 minutes of the RIGHT strength training will help transform you as a runner, much more than just slogging out the same miles at the same pace over and over again.

To help women who are training for endurance to get that secret ingredient into the running or triathlon mix, we have created a four week strength training programme, encompassing three workouts per week of approximately 20 minutes. Each workout is different and is delivered via our membership portal to your phone, and all the exercises are filmed so you’ll know exactly what to to do and how. You must have access to a gym.

It costs £29.99 and once purchased you’ll own it for life and will be able to repeat the programme whenever you like, whether you want to build strength for an endurance event or you just want to do it in order to get fit and in shape.

It will be available to purchase in December, perfect timing for anyone who is doing a Spring marathon helping you to lay the foundations upon which your volume of training can build.

We’ll be offering limited special offer deals for the first 20 to purchase the programme and these special codes will only be delivered via our newsletter. To sign up, click here. 

How was your weekend running?

So, I’m a bit behind with our #medalmonday post – while most of you were running fantastic races like the Two Castles Run (from Warkwick to Kenilworth) and the St Alban’s Half Marathon, I was taking time out from the purity of just running to participate in the 113 Cotswold Half Ironman

 

 

Graeme always has terrible weather at his events,’ confided one of the marshals the day before the 113 Cotswold Half Ironman, as I eyed up the lake I was due to swim 1.9km in the following morning. The next morning, I stood there again, having awoken at 4.30am to rack my bike in transition by the cut-off at 5.40am and to be ready to swim. Except we didn’t. The fog was so thick, you couldn’t see 100 metres on to the lake, let alone the buoys to swim to. And so we waited, all 1000 participants, for 90 minutes until it was safe to get out on the water.

This was my second half ironman distance triathlon this year, which comprises a 1.9km swim, 56 mile bike ride and a half marathon.

If you’re a runner who feels like they need a bit of a change, or you’re injured and need your ‘fix’ without running, or you value the importance of an all over body discipline, then triathlons are a great accessory to add to your running arsenal.

Running is my first love but I decided to take six months out of just ‘pure’ running to help my body grow stronger in different areas, try something new and give myself some ‘mental’ space from chasing marathon PBs. And triathlons have certainly given me that – as well as providing me with new mental strategies that I will now take forward to my final half of the year, focusing on my next ‘A’ race, the Girls Run the World Get Together at the Maverick Snowdonia off road race.

When you’ve got a swim, a bike and THEN a run to do, it’s easier to keep focused and not get overwhelmed by expectation, which can tend to happen with running after you’ve spent 16 weeks training for just one event. Triathlon teaches you to break everything down into manageable segments. On the bike, instead of thinking, ‘Jesus, this is so hard, I’ve got 20 miles to go,’ I focus on eating every 20 minutes, keeping my legs moving and thinking of the strategy for my run.

And on the swim, I just enjoy the vibe and think about what I’m going to do when I get out of the water as I transition on to the bike. (To be fair, I haven’t mastered this and generally tend to faff about!).

And like many triathlons of a longer distance, the runs are almost always broken into laps. As a runner, I used to HATE laps, thinking it was so boring. But when you’re focusing hard, laps have a curiously comforting element to them. This weekend, I focused on one lap at a time, putting the thought of the pain and discomfort of the entire distance away in a box.

Although a great thing about triathlons if you’re runner is that you’ll find that you often get overtaken on the bike, and then you’ll reel them all back in on the run. So,  rather than succumbing to the heat and discomfort on the run, I decided to count every person that I passed and those who passed me. I counted 346, which means that I passed over a third of the field on the run, with only two passing me.

How can I apply this to running, when it really isn’t so easy to pass people? If you tend to go off too quickly in a running race, being secure enough in your running to let others go in front, keeping your pace in check and then reeling people in is a great race strategy. I’ll be trying it.

As for the Cotswolds 113, I’d recommend it if you’re after a longer distance triathlon, friendly, and flat for great PB potential – plus some GREAT pubs to celebrate in!

Thanks to all those who kept me entertained virtually on Sunday morning by sharing where you were running, from the Chew Valley 10km to the Stanwick Lakes Half Marathon to the Parkrun mile to the Hull 10km. We’d love to hear how your running went the past weekend. Let me know!

Psst, if you like the vest design, they’re our limited edition ones, if you want to get your hands on them, give us a shout. They’re £15 plus P&P.