If you are a long distance runner than you want to make sure that your exercise training program is as complete as possible in order to keep your body in peak running condition. Of course distance running can be improved by actually running long distances on a daily basis, however not everyone has time to run 20 kilometers a day to keep up their pace. So then what else can a runner do to truly go the distance, when they’re short on time?
Well in order to make the most of your running time, and to make running easier, helping you to run longer distances without becoming fatigued, it is vital to improve your running economy. If you haven’t heard this term before, you are not alone. Running economy is about using less oxygen when you run. No, that does not mean that you should hold your breath when you run. It means that you are running at a smaller percentage of your V02max (maximal rate of oxygen utilization).
As you start to improve your economy, and thus use less of your V02max, running at a particular speed will begin to feel easier. Improving your economy just one percent can improve your 10 kilometer run by at least twenty seconds. This can be achieved through effective strength training and you can increase your running economy by four to five percent, shaving up to a minute off of your 10-K.
Consider the following study: six experienced female distance runners started a weight training regimen for a ten-week period. At the same time, another six female runners, also experienced, shunned the weight training in favor of their regular training routines. The women who did the weight training improved their upper body strength by 24% and lower body strength by 34%. Their heartbeats were slower during a run after completion of training than they were at the onset of the training, and their running economy improved enough for them to shave about eighty seconds off of a 10-K run on average. The other six runners showed no improvement in strength or running time.
These workouts could work for YOU too! So what did the women who included strength training into their workout do? The women strength trained three days a week, working on parallel squats with free weights, knee flexions, straight-leg heel raises, seated presses with free weights, rear-lat pull downs, hammer curls with free weights and weighted sit-ups with free weights for one workout.
The second workout was composed of lunges with free weights, knee extensions, bent-leg heel raises with free weights, bench presses with free weights, seated rows, front-lat pull downs and abdominal curls. The first and second workouts were alternated through the week so that the women never did the same two in a row. On days when the women were supposed to run they rested for at least five hours between working out and running. The women who strength trained also did not bulk up, which is good for runners who don’t want to carry around extra weight.
So what does this mean for you?Strength training significantly improved the performance of the athletes cited in this studyand it can work for YOU, too. When your body strength increases, fewer muscle fibers actually have to engage for the act of running, meaning that you are wasting less energy and using less oxygen.
Also, the movements that you do make are more economical, making your oxygen use stay low during the course of your running. This means that you can run longer, faster and harder. Sounds like it is time to use that gym membership for more than just the treadmill!