Try Strength Training to Improve Your Running Performance

Running is a high-impact exercise and strength training exercises can help you avoid injuries and improve your performance. Personal trainer Kathleen Trotter explains, and offers some exercises.

Q: How can strength training improve running performance?

A: Strength training can help runners improve their performance in two ways:

1. Running is a high-impact activity, which often leads to overuse injuries of the joints, tendons, ligaments and muscles. Strengthening the muscles of the lower body, ankles and core can help the body properly absorb the impact, (also called ground reaction forces), that the body has to endure when running. This absorption can help to partially alleviate the impact on the runner’s joints, helping the runner to stay injury-free. Being injury-free is priceless for a runner because it allows them to maintain training consistency. Lack of injury and the resulting training consistency will, simply by default, help to improve a runner’s performance.

2. Strong muscles can also help athletes maintain proper form as they run. A runner’s form often deteriorates during long runs and/or when exhaustion sets in. When a runner’s form deteriorates the result is a decline in performance and an increased risk of injury.

Let me provide a few examples of how strength exercises can positively affect a runner’s form. 1. A strong core can help a runner maintain proper alignment of their lower back and torso. 2. Strong glutes and pelvis muscles can ensure the hip does not jut out to the side when the runner’s foot hits the ground. 3. Strong ankle and foot muscles can guard against the probability of ankle breaks and sprains.

Q: Is it best to do these exercises every time you run?

A: No. Do these exercises two to three times per week. If you already do strength training at the gym, it may be easiest to just add these exercises into your regular strength training program. If you don’t belong to a gym these exercises can easily be done at home. All you need is a mat and a resistance band. If you don’t have a mat and/or a resistance band, a towel can be substituted for both.