I know a lot of people that run. Some compete, some just run regularly. I’ve often had the argument that weight lifting or some other form of resistance training is better for them, but I’ve come to realize a couple of things
- Runners for some reason really enjoy running.
- Just because somebody runs, it doesn’t mean that is all they do from an exercise standpoint.
I had a conversation with a young friend who runs competitively, and she is trying to get into weight training in order to improve her competitiveness too. I’ll get into that in a bit with some evidence that she is right on track.
There are a number of downsides to running or other endurance training as the main form of exercise.
- Endocrine and immune function is compromised.
- Muscle mass is compromised.
- Reduction in functional capacity over time due to loss in strength and power.
Consider the flipside of weight training
- Increases endocrine and immune function.
- Maintains muscle mass.
- Improves functional capacity, even despite aging.
- Builds bone density (critical for a runner to reduce the chance of stress fractures)
- Provides a way to correct muscle imbalances (common among runners)
So to maintain good health in general it is important to add resistance training in addition to other activities. In my opinion, you can be smart and efficient about it too. With the right exercises you can easily start to build and maintain muscle mass and get the benefits of increased bone density in 3-4 sessions of 30-40 minutes per week. If you train for running at a gym, you can just jump right into the resistance training routine after your period on the treadmill. If not, you can perform bodyweight or band exercises easily after your run.
One myth is that resistance training tightens the muscles, and therefore reduces running capacity or competitiveness. A study at the University of Connecticut looked at the effect of resistance training on endurance running performance and measures an improvement of 4.6% in running economy. Another study showed a 10 week resistance training routine improved running economy by as much as 10%. For a 3.5 hr marathon, that is an improvement in finishing time by 21 minutes!
Here is yet another study: http://www.saskathletics.ca/pdfs/concurrent%20endurance%20and%20strength%20training.pdf
I’ll post a follow up article with some example workout routines that are efficient and effective. The aim is to use compound movements to stimulate muscle growth and get good coverage of the main muscle groups.