Running is a powerful form of exercise by itself, and it is well-established that athletic performance benefits most from repetitive participation in the particular sport. Other athletes benefit from hitting the gym, but runners often shun the gym as boring and potentially harmful to their goals.
Evidence shows you can also enhance running performance with workout routines designed specifically for the goals of running faster, building endurance, and minimizing the risk of injury. This can be accomplished with a small time investment and knowledge of alternative tools and techniques.
Minimalist Strength Training
If lifting weights was your passion, you’d be in the gym everyday instead of running. Fortunately, getting results from a gym routine is possible without spending too much time there. Health experts currently recommend everyone get two sessions of weight training per week covering all major muscle groups. There is no need for complexity here. Runners will benefit from a simple routine consisting of just a few basic exercises.
Runners rely on explosive strength, and physiological research shows building this strength requires explosive exercise. Plyometrics are used to increase the rapid pushing power of muscles, no weights required. The best part is plyometrics have been clinically proven to improve long-distance runner performance.
The single leg jump is a medium-intensity method of building explosive power. The box jump and hurdle jumping can be used once you gain more experience.
Enhancing Neuromuscular Advantage
The nervous system must be fully engaged to translate weight-training benefits effectively. Strength is actually different from stability, so it helps to spend some time with stability-enhancing tools, like free weights and an exercise ball. The primary benefit here for runners is a greatly reduced risk of injury.
Combining strength and stability training for the hamstrings will confer more benefits than reliance on machine curling. Curls on the exercise ball are much better. Lay on your back with the ball resting under the heels. Lift your butt off the floor, and pull the ball towards you until your heels are flat against it with knees at a 45 degree angle. Extend the legs again to complete one repetition. Many other leg stabilizing exercises are possible using this tool.
Runners increase their performance best by running, but exclusivity confers no additional advantage. General resistance training will ensure all muscle groups contribute to optimal metabolic function. Plyometrics and leg-stabilizing exercises will increase pushing strength and reduce the risk of injury.