We are strong because we are runners. And we train because we want to be stronger and better runners.
While running is a great way to get and stay in shape, it is important to incorporate strength training into our normal weekly workout routines. But are we supposed to strength train before or after a run?
Strength training is the form of exercises that uses resistance to cause muscle contraction. Also called weight training or resistance training, it improves muscular strength by using resistance to work out a specific muscle group. When we strength train, our nervous system needs to produce more force in our muscles in order to use our skeletal system.
The overall goal of strength training is to get the muscles stronger. This means increasing to heavier weights the more we train.
Benefits Of Strength Training
There are many benefits of strength training in general and for runners specifically. For starters, strength training helps to make a person more fit. Consistent training results in an increase in muscle and a decrease in fat. This makes it a great way to ward off unwanted weight, decreasing the risk of obesity as well as helping to manage glucose levels for those with Type 2 diabetes.
It is good for bone health, especially in women with low bone mass. Strength training promotes better heart health, while also improving flexibility. It boosts mood and energy, combating depression and anxiety thanks to the release of endorphins. Plus it can do wonders for self-esteem and body image.
For runners, a good approach to training and stretching helps reduce the risk of injury. Of course, you need good running gear like non-slip athletic socks and stable running sneakers, but your body plays the biggest role. Runners need to have strong muscles in order to be able to perform since it strengthens the muscles and tissues needed to move.
Strength training benefits include improving balance and coordination, which are important for runners. Specifically for running, lifting those weights improves running economy and power. Plus it increases speed and VO2 max because the muscles learn to now use so much energy to be able to run at a certain pace because it can handle the intensity. In short, there is less muscle fatigue thanks to building up those muscles. That’s why combining strength training and running program is a good idea.
Running and Strength Training: Before Or After?
There are two types of people, those who lift weights then hop on the treadmill, or those who get their run in then pump iron. But when should runners really be strength training? What is the best way to combine running and strength training?
According to research from Australia that found that there was no difference in performance and effort among both groups of runners, those who strength trained first or after a run. However, the researchers suggest running first then lifting to get that more intense workout in first them take it easier on the weights. A good example would be to run before work and hit the gym for weights at the end of the day.
With that said, there is a preferred order based on goals.
Strength train before a run when looking to bulk up and build muscle. If speed during a run isn’t the main goal, pick up the weights first. However, if the main goal is to build muscle, it’s best not to run after at all because the body needs time to recover. While running after builds endurance, it can negatively get in the way of muscle building. Lift weights first then run for those who are looking to lose weight since the body then starts to run on fat instead of carbs that have already been used up when strength training.
Strength train after a run when looking to improve on speed, and increase endurance. Runners don’t want to be too fatigued when going for sprints or a tempo run. While running on tired legs can aid in endurance, runners don’t want to overdo it by tiring out the leg muscles by lifting before even getting to their run. Plus this could cause a strain, injury, or overuse. This is especially the case when going for the long run. Never weight lift (the lower half of the body) before a long run to prevent injury.
Strength Training Tips
There are different ways to strength train. These include lighting weights at the gym or at home, either free weights or the gym equipment. Other options include classes like CrossFit for TRX. Just make sure to focus on one muscle group at a time. For example, have a session dedicated to the upper body like arms, shoulder and chest and another day for back, legs, and glutes. Just make sure to never miss leg day.
- What is strength training? A beginners guide, Exercise Right, Jan.3, Exercise Right
- 7 Ways Strength Training Boosts Your Health and Fitness, Chris Iliades, MD, Everyday Health
- 11 Benefits of Strength Training That Have Nothing to Do With Muscle Size, K. Aleisha Fetters, March 23, 2018, U.S. News
- Why Strength Training Is So Important for Runners, Runner’s World
- How Best to Combine Strength Training and Running, Scott Douglas, Feb. 24, 2014, Runner’s World
- Strength Before Endurance? What’s the Right Order?, Herwig Natmessnig, April 9, 2016, Runtastic