Weight Training for Endurance

Running is definitely a “black and white” type of activity.  Either you love it or you hate it – there is no gray area.  Regardless of your stance on running (and all other cardiovascular training, for that matter), you can’t argue it’s importance to overall health.  What I want to do with this article is dispel the nasty rumor that strength training and cardiovascular training are detrimental to each other – primarily how strength training can IMPROVE cardiovascular performance, particularly running.  Maybe you want to be able to run hills a little faster.  Maybe you want to be able to finish stronger.  Or perhaps you just want to be able to run faster so you can be done quicker.  Regardless of your reasoning for wanting to improve, we need to ditch the notion that weight training is detrimental.

First and foremost, I want to talk about three main types of weight training – Strength-Endurance Training.  Strength Training.  Power Training.

Strength Endurance Training is what people typically think when they say endurance training; resistance training done with moderate weight for higher repetitions, generally in the 15-20 rep range.  This is done in a slow and controlled manner, often times in an unstable environment.  This type of training is important in being able to develop force over longer periods of time, something that all runners must be able to do.  It is also the most appropriate starting point for those who are new to weight training.

Strength Training generally uses higher loads and lower repetitions (can vary anywhere from 2-6 repetitions), with the aim of improving overall strength.  Some runners may think this is the most detrimental to their running, as it will produce the “bulk” muscles that runners want to avoid.  In reality, true strength training doesn’t produce much bulk at all (training for hypertrophy – 8-12 rep range – is what results in bigger muscles).  Strength is necessary to produce force.  Any time a runner takes a stride and pushes off the ground, force is produced.  If you want to be able to do that faster, more force is required.  If you want to maintain the same speed at an incline, more force is required.  Being stronger doesn’t mean being bulkier.  Being stronger doesn’t mean you will lose endurance.  Being stronger simply means you will be able to produce more force when you need it during a run.

Power Training is typically the same as strength training, but incorporates speed into the equation.  One difference is, generally, you will start with lower weights for safety reasons.  Typical power movements involved plyometrics (any type of jump training), medicine ball exercises, and sprinting, just to name a few.  Another major different in strength and power training, as mentioned, is that power training incorporates speed.  Strength training is usually done in a slower, more controlled manner.  Power training, on the other hand, is done as quickly as possible.  This teaches the muscles to work quickly at a high intensity.  There are two reasons as to why this is effective.  First and foremost, when you are running, you are essentially jumping from one leg to the other.  Why not include jump training (plyometrics) into your training?  Second, when you are running, you are moving your legs relatively quickly (obviously some people move quicker than others).  When you weight train, you have to be able to train those muscle to produce force quickly, which makes power training essential to improve your running abilities

There are plenty of methods to accomplish all three of these types of training.  The most important thing to remember, though, is to incorporate all of them to get the most out of your training.  If you leave out strength and power training, you will have difficulty increasing your speed and intensity.  If you don’t endurance train, you may have trouble towards the end of a run or race.  All three types of training are very important, and will help you become a better overall runner.  There is one very important thing to remember, however:  YOU HAVE TO PRIORITIZE YOUR WORKOUTS.  If you are weight training to improve cardiovascular performance, you STILL HAVE TO DO YOUR CARDIO!!!  You must make that your priority first and foremost, and use weights as a supplement.  Always remember what your goal is and train specifically to that.  Everything else is used to help improve that main goal!!!

I hope this helps, and gives some of you a good reason to get in the gym and throw some weights around!!!

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