Strength Training

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.


  1. haha! thanks for the shout brian.

    yea, i don’t think i’m the guy to go to for strength training in aerobic sports… BUT if you’d like to ditch the distance and toss some tractor tires, im your man 😉

  2. I agree with the strength training plus running mindset. When I was in the army, I lifted six days a week and got very strong and very bulky but my running times never struggled in the 2 mile to 5 mile runs. Since I didn’t do more the five mile I can’t speak to that. I lifted during training for the first disney marathon in 06. It had no ill effects. The second marathon I didn’t have enough time to strength train, so I just ran. More injuries, especially post marathon. I picked up lifting at the end of last year. Even thought it has only been a month, I feel “healthier” and more physically sound. I believe it helps keep muscles in balance and helps maintain core. I generally stick to whole body core building exercise plans for now, but look to integrate focused work outs as my strength builds. I don’t want to get back to the 325lbs I was benching in the army, but a nice 200 would be cool.

  3. When I was in the Army, it started with heavy calisthenics and weight training, but as I left BT and went towards my job being an ITS 25B, it tapered off on the physical endurance training especially overseas. When I got back from my 2nd tour, I realized that I needed to get back to strength training and running again. I wound up loosing 45lbs in less than 6 months while maintaining a 3,000 calorie diet (high protein, healthy carbs, lots of veggies and foods rich in antioxidants). Needless to say, I don’t train these days until I drop: I train keeping with high cardio output. I run @ an easy 4.8mph on my treadmill keeping my heart rate @ an easy 120bpm.

  4. i think lifting is helpful for running, although i haven’t exactly been a regular attendee in the weight room myself. i got “the ultimate guide to weight training for runners” a couple years ago and it seems to consist of pretty standard lifts/moves. then again, runners probably don’t need to get too specific. i know i need to get back in the gym at least a little, but i’m hoping plyo’s/circuits a few times a week will give me a little bit of strength.

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