25 January 2023
Contributor - Coach and Personal Trainer
Want to run faster? Training hack 101… it’s not about running more, or even running harder… It’s about training smarter.
The biggest strength for all of my athletes, and even for myself personally when it comes to endurance running, is physical strength. Not only for speed and performance, but also the “pre-hab” to avoid the common running related injuries that occur in many recreational runners - things like ITB syndrome in both the knee and hip, or in some extreme cases, stress fractures.
Strength training has a great many benefits, including an increase in bone density, in muscular endurance, in structural and biomechanical correctness, and an improvement in balance and core strength. All of these are highly beneficial to runners of all disciplines, ages, and abilities.
"Be fit to run, and then run to be fit!"
There is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to weight training for runners. There are various factors to address when programming for an athlete, and the best style of program for a sprinter on the one hand or a 800m runner on the other will be very different to that of a marathon runner.
Biomechanically, there is a vast difference in muscle fibre recruitment and energy requirements. This alone will significantly alter the exercises, sets, and reps within an athlete’s training schedule. Typically speaking though, it’s very important for runners of all disciplines to have good posterior chain and core strength.
Hamstrings, glutes, and soleus (calves), are non-negotiable exercises to integrate into a strength program for runners - and I recommend them for all of my athletes to reduce the risk of knee and hip-related injuries that are so common in endurance runners.
In a typical running program, looking at the entire picture is the best way to build a solid foundation for programming over a 12-20 week program depending on the event. It’s important to factor in adequate recovery time from strength sessions to hit the road again and vice versa.
For the average recreational runner, a training schedule comprising of 4-5 runs and 2-3 strength sessions is generally a sound split.
An example of a weekly breakdown could look like this:
Monday: 5km Recovery run & lower posterior chain strength session.
Tuesday: Speed session – Approx 3-5km
Wednesday: Lower Body Strength session – agility and plyometrics
Thursday: Fartlek session – 45 mins
Saturday: Long Run (relative to discipline, IE, marathon runner may be running up to 25km and increasing volume by up to 10% each week).
Basic body weight movements are some of the most effective strength exercises for runners. Light muscle activation is one of the biggest training hacks I’ve experienced both personally and with my clients in pre run prep, strength training warm ups, and pre-hab and rehab programs. The ability to use your own bodyweight through specific movement patterns can be much more effective on a biomechanical level.
When using unassisted bodyweight we are in many cases required to recruit much more core strength, and able to isolate key muscles such as glute med, hamstrings, adductors and so on. The use of resistance bands is a great addition to many running drills such as glute med, hamstring exercise.
Performance can be linked to various factors, but a commonly overlooked piece of the puzzle is energy in vs energy out AKA, fuel!
"An athletes nutrition plays a huge role in maintaining and improving stamina in not only a long run, but also performance in the weights room and recovery."
The faster the recovery, the sooner you can get back out there and perform. As a runner, and coach, one of the most common mistakes I see people make is poor nutrition timing in relation to their training, and under-eating.
Carbohydrates are the optimal and most easily synthesised macronutrient to the body. If you are expecting to put in a good session, then your pre-training meal or snack should be “calculated”. What does this mean? Quite simply, become educated on what you need, and what you are putting in your mouth. A great example of a pre run carbohydrate snack would be a banana, or even the MYMC pancakes. Base the size of your meal off the duration of workout.
I love to use pilates to strengthen the core muscles for running and use multi-plane exercises with trunk rotation elements involved. Whilst we don’t often think about it, running actually requires a lot of unilateral balance, so working on single leg balance drills is also very effective.
Try this weight training plan next time you’re in the gym!
Banded crab walks 3 x 20 each side
3 x 20 Banded clams
3 x 20 Banded static march
A1 - 8 Deadlifts
A2 – Single leg DB Romanian deadlift x 12
A3 – Banded KB swings x 15
B1 – Bulgarian Split Squat x 12
B2 – Static front foot step ups x 10
C1 – Single Leg Hip Thrust off bench (BW) x 12
C2 – Box Jumps x 8
C3 – Side Plank – 45 seconds each side
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