Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Importance of Weight Training for Runners

I'll start the week of 2/17-2/23, where I went to Virginia Tech and did a double 3K/5K workout.  It went very well, and I was satisfied with my efforts.  The 3K was just before 8PM on Friday, and the 5K followed on Saturday at 2:30 PM, so I had less than 24 hours rest between each event.  The 3K went out fast(my first mile was 4:34), and the race didn't feel natural to me.  The indoor air was a bit of a shock, as I haven't run an indoor race in 2 years.  However, it was awesome running on that track again, which is elevated and banked.  I ended up finishing 8th place in the 3K in a time of 8:48(averaging about 4:41 pace).  Not very fast, though technically a PR for the distance for me.  I don't race 3K much, it's an odd distance to me.  But it was a good way to get my legs worked going into the 5K the next day.  Including the warm up and cool down, I got in 8.5 miles for the day.  The next morning I did a solid session of foam rolling and stretching.

The 5K had no one else who had run the 3, so I was up against fresh legs.  I probably started out in 7th place or so.  But gradually, I began running down everyone.  I actually felt better than I had the day before. First mile was 4:45.  I moved my way up to 4th, then 3rd position.  I went through 3K in 9:01.  I wanted to try to break 15:00, but knew that was a bit ambitious and I was slightly falling off that pace.  Not to mention I now had to lap some of the other runners.  I then moved up to 2nd place, and because I was now lapping runners, I couldn't tell where the leader was.  I just grinded my way home, finishing in 15:13, 9 seconds behind the winner.  I immediately jogged off the track, put my trainers on, drank some gatorade, and went out for a 6 mile run on the huckleberry trail to get some mileage in.  I got in over 12 miles for the day, pretty wiped when I got back.  The next morning I did an 18 mile long run, 82 miles for the week.      

Then last Tuesday, I slipped on some damn ice during a run.  I fell splat flat on my back, and cursed to myself, gotta be more careful!  Always mind your surroundings.  I got up and felt my muscles had all tensed up, but otherwise I was fine.  I am more of a muscular guy(I like to think of myself built sort of like Meb, only a lot slower).  But thanks to all the strength training I do, my body was able to recover quickly.  In fact, I was able to finish the last few miles of my run, and got in 97 miles for the week(but no track stuff).  I am a big believer in strength training helping not only to prevent overuse injuries, but also when instances like falling randomly occur.  So I am going to talk a bit about the importance of weight training now.  I typically lift weights twice per week, and target the chest, arms, upper and lower back, glutes, hip adductors and abductors, obliques, and a ton of abdominal work.  It's all fatigue resistant exercises(less weight, more reps).  Many runners forego the arms and chest(especially females).  The fear is to bulk up, but if you do the right stuff, you won't bulk up, you'll lean out, and burn more fat at rest in the process(and therefore become more efficient, and more cut).  You'll also be able to run faster!  If you watch Deena Kastor in the 2004 Olympic Marathon in Athens, she worked her way up during the final miles of the race towards a bronze medal finish.  She believed that she wouldn't have passed everyone in the end to grab the medal if it weren't for her upper body strength.  She credited her rigorous strength training routine leading up to that race.  Some of the exercises I do include:

-bench press(light weight, more reps)
-abdominal crunches on stability ball
-side leg lifts for hip adductors, gluteus medius, and abductors(inner thighs)
-bridges(raising one leg at a time, targeting the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings)
-lower back lifts on stability ball
-squats and lunges(without weights)
-side body lifts(for obliques)
-medicine ball twists

Running trails also fits in this category(I am talking about REAL trails which help with stabilizing the ankles).  Roots will toughen your ankles up.  If you don't exercise the ankles, they become weak, and therefore you are more vulnerable.  If you always run on the treadmill, your body is not going to be more resistant to injury(despite the less impact).
This week I got the intensity going again, and yesterday I did a fast 6 x 200-6 x 400, with 200 jog(or 1-2 minute rests) between each rep.  It was good quality, and helped me work on my weakness(speed).  Splits below:

200m: 34, 
400m: 69, 
200m: 34, 
400m: 66, 
200m: 33, 
400m: 65, 
200m: 32, 
400m: 64, 
200m: 31, 
400m: 65, 
200m: 29, 
400m: 69

My next race will be the Townebank 8K in Virginia Beach on March 15.


  1. thanks for the reminder about weight training. you're absolutely right about its importance and liek you said, done correctly it doesn't have to bulk you up! lately, i've felt lucky just to get out for a run but i'm going to do my best to at least get some general strength exercise done once a week.

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