I’m in the middle of training for an ultra-marathon in April and this week is my taper week.
I’m using a three-week cycle of increasing my weekly mileage and tapering it down (lowering the mileage) for a week to give my body time to adapt and recover.
I have to say I am very glad that it is this week, as my ankles are feeling the high volume of miles the most and the decrease in miles is doing them the world of good.
When I begin my cycle again at the start of next week I will have increased my weekly miles more than the first week of the last block.
More on this method next week but today I wanted to share with you the other training I’m doing in preparation for this ultra-marathon and that’s strength training.
Strength training and running don’t seem to mix well for some people.
They normally do one or the other, but I’m combining both.
I would have been normally a strength guy with short sharp intense burst of anaerobic training to suit the demands of football but now I’m training to run 39.3 miles I have to change it up a bit.
This doesn’t mean dropping any one particular training mode, its more to do with adapting them to suit my current needs.
I currently have three strength training sessions in my weekly schedule, one of them is an Olympic weightlifting class at the CrossFit Omagh.
Without these classes I feel that I would not have the physical strength, mental strength and mobility to complete my training never mind completing the race.
Here are some of the main reasons why you should add strength training to you running program:
If you’re injured, you can’t train, if you can’t train then you will find it harder to run a race.
Think of your muscles as a support system for your joints.
The stronger they are, the less impact your knees will feel, allowing you a longer, pain free running life.
Conditioned muscles will also recover faster meaning less chance of injury due to over-training.
Fix muscles imbalances
One of the biggest causes of runner’s injuries can be muscle imbalances.
Most of us have a dominant side.
Running long distances can magnify that but specific weight training can target weaker muscles and bring your body back into alignment.
Add in unilateral exercises to your training plan such as lunges to ensure you work both sides equally.
Strength training increases bone density.
Put simply, when your body has to support an extra load, your bones will work harder, making them stronger.
Stronger bones will enable you to have a longer running career and hopefully reduce your risk of injury.
Reduce Body Fat
Some people run to lose weight but one of the most effective ways to lose weight and gain lean muscle is through strength training.
Research has shown an increase in muscular endurance from strength training helps with your ‘final kick’ in a 5-10k race or last 13 miles in my case.
Drawing on your fast twitch muscle fibres, which improve through strength exercises such as Plyometrics (jumping exercises), will give you that change of speed for an impressive sprint finish.
Mobility and core
During your strength training session, you will be improving your core and taking your body through ranges of movements that you can’t get from running alone.
This will help you maintain your posture and technique much longer.
When you are strength training it’s a great opportunity to add in additional mobility and core exercises before, during and after your sessions.
What type of strength training should you do?
It all depends on the person, their training age, experience of strength training and even the event they are training for.
If you are new to strength training I would suggest seeking the right advice from someone respected with the fitness industry who has a proven record of helping runners or other similar athletes.
Even join a gym class or performing your own body weight exercise may be enough for whatever goal you are looking to achieve.
Don’t get too carried away and go all out on your strength leaving you feeling crippled that you can’t get your running miles in.
Train smart and talk to the right people.