So how much strength training do runners really need to do?
Thankfully, for some of us, not too much. Most coaches would recommend two or three sessions a week. But if you’re seriously pushed for time, there’s actually some evidence to suggest that just one 20-minute strength training session per week can be effective in building and maintaining strength.
These 20 minutes of effective training per week should involve six exercises: chest press, pull down, back extension, leg press, abdominal flexion, and either hip abduction or abduction is enough.
The key is the level of resistance: you need to choose a weight where you can only manage to do four to six reps. Rest between the exercises is typically about 20 seconds.
How heavy is heavy enough?
It is important to take into consideration, not allow weight training to add so much stress to your body that you get injured. Runners tend to “want to feel the burn” – which is why it’s typical for us to sometimes run too fast or too long. But that also means that we can go too hard in the weights room.
Before you add any resistance to an exercise, make sure you master perfect form with your own bodyweight. If you’re just starting out in the gym weights room, focus on these four pointers to help you choose how much weight to add:
- Begin with a weight that you know will be too easy
- Perform three sets of 10 reps
- See how you feel and slowly add more weight from there
- When the last few reps of the third set feel really tough, start with that weight
You can increase the weight every two weeks, similar to the way you increase your running mileage. By month two or three, you should be performing fewer reps and more sets, with heavier weights.
On days when you run and lift weights, it’s best to run first: lower-bodyweight workouts six hours before running at moderate to high intensities have carryover effects of fatigue the next day that are more significant than in the reverse scenario.
Try this runners' strength training plan:
Monday: Strength train upper body/core
Tuesday: Tempo run
Wednesday: Easy run; Strength train lower body
Thursday: Rest day
Friday: Tempo run (evening)