Posted on 18-01-2009
Filed Under (Training) by Brian

Has anyone else tried to research strength training for distance runners?  I’ll save you the trouble.  You can Google it and get just about any answer you want.  There are those that say you shouldn’t strength train at all because it will make you too bulkly.  There are those that say you should only strength train your upper body because your legs get enough work already.  There are those who day you should strength train, but you should use low weight with many repetitions.  There are those who say you should strength train with high weight and low repetition to build power.

The worst part is that for each of the above strategies, there’s an elite distance runner who follows it.  In my experience, I’ve been able to work myself through overuse injuries using strength training.  I definately think that the strength training and body building I did this year before the half marathon kept me injury free compared to last year when I stopped my strength training when my mileage got high and started taking up more time.  This year I did my strength workouts right up to my taper – ceasing them during the three week taper before the race – and I performed quite well.  In any case, I’m not worried about bulking up.  Running a lot of miles makes that quite difficult no matter what else you do.

A few years ago, I met Elliot Hulse at a networking group.  I ended up on his email list.  I’ve followed him as he’s gone on to become Florida strongman champion and finished 4th in his weight class during the strongman nationals this fall.  Elliot will be the first to admit that he’s no distance runner.  Quite the opposite in fact.  He’s built for short anaerobic bursts of power.  His training methods are interesting, though. Just check out some of his videos.  They look fun (if tiring).

While I agree that the best way to become a better runner is to run, I wonder if such power training could help a distance runner.  Personally, I think that weight training with light weights and high repetitions is useless.  That’s not really different than running.  Although running is primarily an aerobic activity, I think of each footfall individually as a power move.  The faster and more efficiently you move from heel strike to toe off, the further forward each footfall pushes you.

In any case, I did find a powerpoint presentation by Terrance Mahon, head coach of Team Running USA (Ryan Hall, Deena Kastor).  They do use weight training – a combination of olympic lifts, dumbell work, flexibility and plyometrics.  So, I’m using that as a sort of guide as I develop a strength training plan this spring with the hope of increasing my speed.  Of course I’ll be doing some standard stuff like 200, 400 and 800 m repeats at high speed as well.  I”ll try to document what I do and see if it helps.

Today I headed out for 4 easy miles, but went too fast again.  I completed it quite winded, averaging 7:48 per mile.  I”ll be hitting the treadmill for 5 tomorrow, insuring an easy pace.

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