Training for running events by running, as you’d probably expect, is a very good idea. It’s pretty much a necessity in fact, if you want to maintain, improve and progress. However, there’s a lot more you can do to support your running if you want to ensure you’re getting the best out of it.
Training in the gym is often seen as something that contradicts running training. Especially for longer distances, where the concept of putting on muscle and weight has obvious implications. In actual fact gym training, and weights in particular, are highly beneficial to any runner, whether you’re a sprinter or an ultra-marathoner.
Firstly, weight training allows you to build strength. Now, strength may not be something you usually associate with running, but it means a lot more than the ability to lift something heavy. Muscular strength is defined as “the ability to exert a maximal amount of force for a short period of time”, in the context of running that means you have an increased capacity for things like bursts of speed. The upshot being that you’re a lot more in control of your body whilst running, making sure your running is a lot more efficient.
Form, posture & core
Another benefit of building muscles is form and posture. Running may seem like an exercise largely focussed on the lower half of body, but good running form utilises a lot more than just the legs. Although it isn’t as obvious, the core plays a massive part in running, maintaining balance as well as a good posture.
The upper body is something that’s often neglected in running. However, it’s this part of the body that builds momentum to go forward, utilising the weight of the arms to generate a rhythm with the legs. Next time you go out running try to let your arms sag at the sides and you’ll see how important they are.
A good full body gym workout means that not only can you work on specific areas that may have been neglected by running alone, but you can also make the whole thing more efficient; meaning it all works together as one seamless running machine.
Best 6 gym exercises to help build strength for running
Here are a few examples of exercises to incorporate into your gym routine. Always remember to keep the weights light until you have the form correct (ask a personal trainer) and increase only when you’re confident to do so.
Compound movements are exercises that work multiple muscle groups. There are lots of benefits to doing them over isolation exercises (ones that work just one muscle) including the ability to lift heavier weights, they require more energy (so more calories burned) and mean that you can work a lot more muscles in a shorter period of time – which is good when you’re spending a lot of time running. The fact that you’re working multiple muscles in one motion also helps with things like balance and building up your core.
1. Weighted Squats
Squats are widely viewed as the perfect exercise, working an enormous number of muscles across the whole body. There are many variations on performing a squat, with different positions affecting a range of muscles. Start with the most basic of squats to get used to the form before attempting other variants.
Place a barbell or two dumbbells over your shoulders and stand with your feet slightly further than shoulder width apart. Make sure that you maintain a neutral spine through i.e. your head should be in line with a straight spine – don’t hunch forwards or dip your head.
Lower your body so that your knees drop in line with your feet to the point where it’s comfortable and then come back up. Take two seconds to go down and two seconds to come back up. As you lower make sure to keep the weight of the body on the heels. If you feel yourself falling forward onto the balls of the feet realign yourself to put more weight behind you, maintaining the neutral spine.
If you’re not confident with the exercise to begin with, perform it without a weight (these are called bodyweight squats), until you’re confident.