DOES RESISTANCE TRAINING ACTUALLY IMPROVE YOUR RUNNING?

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    Luke Hughes

    Is resistance training really that beneficial for running?

    With 10.5 million of us, roughly 1 in 5 run at least four times per year according to sports marketing survey INC, it is no wonder that runners are looking to improve their times and get the edge on their training regime.

    This is an old aged questions that many aspiring athletes and recreational runners ask when trying to optimise their training to get the best possible results from their workout programme to apply to their sport and you might be wondering the same? Should you spend any time hitting the weights and will it actually benefit your running performance? Many runners get concerned with adding bulk or spending time focusing on the weights, which could have been applied to furthering their cardiovascular capabilities.

    Ultimately it depends on how serious you take your training, the amount you are currently training and what stage you are at right now with your running to find a balance of when to introduce the weights to give you that bit extra. Resistance training is utilised by all cardio-vascular based sporting athletes and most certainly can be used by even the most recreational runner to boost and enhance performance to shade off that 30 seconds off your next run. In this article we review the ways resistance training actually aids your training as opposed to hinders and how you can easily implement it into your next training programme.

    WHERE CAN RESISTANCE TRAINING HELP?

    1. REDUCES BODY FAT

    Fat is mainly lost through having a fast metabolic rate, when we are asleep and not being active, more than when we are actually training, thus if we can influence this in a positive way to speed up our metabolic rate, we should do. Resistance training has a huge benefit of enhancing our metabolic rate when we are not exercising that cardiovascular training just can’t compete with. Lean muscle burns more energy than fat and fat can even have a negative avalanche effect as it secretes fatty acids and hormone peptides into our system making us even fatter.

    Established runners normally have very low body fat percentages but by introducing strength training earlier within their schedule they could have actually got there much faster through the accelerated metabolic benefits that resistance training provides during the time we are away from the gym or the track.

    2. IMPROVED BODY COMPOSITION

    Runners get very concerned that if they revert to adding strength based exercises to their routine that they are going to put large volumes of lean muscle mass on, which is detrimental to their sport. This is actually not the case as its is very widely accepted that running and other cardio based exercises actually degrade muscle, which results in the athlete or runner getting the benefits of extra strength, power without the huge muscular adaptation. As long as the cardio vascular element is sustained through not an entire shift towards resistance training then the large majority of muscle fibre types will be type 1. Research conducted from the journal of strength and conditioning, the official journal of the national association found that those who perform regular cardio and then introduced weight training to their routine that there was very little difference in body composition of lean muscle mass, yet the candidates all recorded increases in strength and power. Further research by Aagaard and Andersen who wrote an article on the effect of maximal strength training on elite endurance athletes found that continuous training diminished the muscle hypotrophy that would normally occur with strength training.

    3. ENERGY EFFICENY

    Intertwining nicely into body composition, our energy supplies are directly relatable to our body composition. For example if we now comprehend that our cross sectional area of muscle does not have to increase with adding strength training but we do record improved strength gains, this must come from somewhere? Indeed it does, from enhanced capillary development within the muscles allowing us take oxygen to the muscles and waste away much faster this improving running performance.

    Another added benefit is the rate we can now absorb fatty acids through this enhanced capillary infrastructure, this is ideal for a runner as it sustains our glycogen stores, which are needed for endurance athletes for longer, giving us more energy at the times we need it.

    4. THE FINAL SPRINT

    Through the correct strength-training programme with a focus on compound exercises like squats, deadlifts and leg pressing you will notice big strength gains.
    Cardio based sports predominately develop type 1 muscle fibres, which are the least powerful, however take a very long time to exhaust hence why training you should mainly revolve around these fibre types. This being said, developing a specific weight training plan you will activate your type 2A muscle fibres that generate power and speed and will be really useful for giving you that extra burst at the end of a race or if you simply want to beat your friend at the time that really matters. Muscle fibres develop in direct relation to your training, so by adding some resistance work whilst still keeping your running and focus on type 1 you will get the benefits bets of both worlds.

    TAKE AWAY – ALWAYS USE WEIGHT TRAINING TO COMPLIMENT YOUR RUNNING

    There are many more benefits that a dedicated runner can take from adding a specific weight-training programme to coincide and integrate with their running but it should be just that, to work alongside otherwise the benefits do disintegrate. Other more minor benefits include increase reproductive health, increase anti-oxidant levels and improved receptiveness to insulin fluctuations.

    Whether you are at the beginning of your journey into taking up running or an elite athlete with a large amount of training experience, expanding your horizons into adopting a strength training components will add extra benefits that will get you to your results quicker.

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