Updated: Aug 13
In over a decade of training athletes and overseeing weight rooms, one thing I can tell you is RUNNERS love to clock in the most time in the weight room. The problem is, they waste more time doing routines they just don't need to do than actually utilizing the room in a way that will get them FASTER. Don't get me wrong, doing any form of strength training is going to help you in any sport (especially running) but constantly mimicking your sport and avoiding increasing the weight out of fear of injury will only result in mediocre results and a higher chance of being injured.
Runners need STRENGTH and strength training needs PROGRESS to actually work. Now, I am not saying a 100m sprinter should be hitting a 405lb squat max Mid-Season or a distance runner needs to be chasing that 225lb bench, but if you enter the weight room as a freshman and leave as a senior without ever increasing the weight on the bar you should be asking yourself if all those weight room hours were actually worth it.
Here are my top 3 tips for Runners.
1: Trainer HEAVY (well, heavier)
Runners do not need to lift the same weights as a powerlifter or lineman, but your body needs to be challenged. What it does not need is the constant joint driving damage of always going for high reps. Your endurance should already be pretty high after 6 days of Track Practice, why continue to build your strong area (endurance) if it means avoiding your weak area (strength)? Also, endurance goes up when the muscles grow. Get out of the mindset that Strong athletes get tired fast, the truth is unconditioned athletes tire fast and strong/conditioned athletes win.
Sure, running full speed down the runway with a sled chugging behind you looks/sounds cool and will turn some heads and get you attention at practice, but is it really helping? We've all heard the sound of a sled chugging and clicking down the runway, it is not a smooth glide, it's a stop and go (many quick stops and goes) and this can really tear at the ankles, calves, knees, and everything else up and down the body. While this can be beneficial here are some better ways to utilize sleds
A: HEAVY sled walks. Build those muscles, save your joints, and increase your Central Nervous System. All of this will increase speed and even increase your body's natural recovery time. 2 ways I would suggest doing this is 1: Heavy walks for the same distance your run for 4-10 sets. So 100m runners will drag the sled for 100m, rest, repeat. the 2nd method would be to do the same sets and reps but for the average time. Let's say you average 55 seconds on the 100m, drag the sled for 55 seconds, rest, repeat. Your body will really start to develop with this method.
B: PUSH - If your school doesn't have a prowler than it is time to start fundraising for one. Not only is pushing for SPEED a much safer alternative than pulling for speed but a prowler will align the body in a much more natural running state. A few laps up and down the track or turf will get those legs fired up while engaging the core and getting you ready for your next race. If you can push 100-200+ pounds at a fast race than you will surely be on your way to hitting a new PR at an upcoming meet.
3: Cut back on running so much and put more focus into lifting in the off season. Every runner I've ever worked with who ran year-round experienced more injuries than any other sport/athlete. Football athletes got this right, Go HARD with football for 3+ months with lifting mixed in then go ALL OUT in the weight room post season with football mixed in. The body can't take the same movements and joint damage year-round. I agree that you should be running all 12 months of the year but a week after your season wraps up, I would suggest switching to an 80/20 split of Lifting and Running. This is the time to increase the weight but also dissect your weak spots (Probably your Glutes, Hams, Core, Upper Body) and train those areas hard. Runners love to neglect the upper body then act surprised when their form falls apart mid race. It's typically not the legs moving in all the wrong directions, it's the upper body. Also, an intense season of endless training weakened your glutes and hamstrings, build them up stronger than ever before. This should be the most exciting part of your training. You just spent months working hard and now you know every area of the body that needs work so cut back on running and fix those areas.