Long-Distance Running and Strength Training

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Date: September 18, 2012

Long-Distance Running Program: Preventing Injuries and Increasing Performance through Strength Training.

If you look at a prototypical long distance runner you notice muscles – this is because these individuals usually have less than 10% body fat.  They won’t have big muscles but lean, sinewy muscles that are designed to be efficient over hours of constant contractions. This is a concept that recently became more evident when one of our MedStrength trainers undertook the challenge of running a marathon. It soon became apparent that he was carrying the wrong kind of muscle bulk and would need to change the way he strength trained; in training for running, instead of lifting very heavy loads for few repetitions, the focus is on higher repetitions (12-15 reps) with lighter resistance. This method switches the emphasis on developing the slow-twitch muscle fibres over the fast-twitch fibres for a more fatigue-resistant strength.

A common misconception is that strength training is unnecessary for long-distance running. This is untrue, especially for those with muscular imbalances or previous injuries. Although getting outside and running is likely the most important part of running longer distances over shorter periods of time, if you have any weaknesses they will rear their ugly head as you start building up the miles. This is where strength training comes in.

For starters, a solid foundation is important. Undergoing a muscle balance assessment with our team of physiotherapists is a good way to pinpoint any deficiencies and potential injuries, if you’re not already aware of them. Once you have worked any issues, training all the major muscles of the body to develop overall strength should be a primary goal. This is easily accomplished using the MedX machines on our MedStrength training circuit.

Once you have built general strength then you can focus on exercises that are more specific to running. This means using the muscles of the lower limbs and performing exercises in standing to continue to develop this functional position.

Muscles important in running include all the major muscles of the lower limbs and those of the core. Quadriceps control knee bends (through extension), while Gluteus Maximus and Hamstrings control hip bends (through flexion). The muscles that control hip stability are also extremely important and are often neglected. These include the abductor and adductor groups. The core muscles are used to maintain proper posture needed to keep the proper running position.

Click here to download the info sheet and programme specifically designed for long-distance running.