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Unlock your potential: the power of strength training

Our fitness expert Ollie Thompson says the winter months are a good time to decrease your running volume and add some strength training into your regime.

With the darker and cooler weather arriving, it’s that time of year where those of you who spent the summer months enjoying outdoor runs find yourself either in a gym on the treadmill, or outdoors braving the weather much less frequently.

Personal trainer Ollie Thompson. Picture: Keith Heppell
Personal trainer Ollie Thompson. Picture: Keith Heppell

These next few months are the perfect time to decrease your running volume and add some running-specific strength training into your regime. Strength training is a critical component of any comprehensive fitness regimen, especially for runners.

While many people associate running with cardiovascular endurance, incorporating strength training into your routine can significantly enhance your overall performance and reduce the risk of injuries.

Here are some key benefits of doing strength training to support running.

1. Improved running efficiency

Strength training enhances muscle efficiency and coordination. When your muscles are stronger, they can generate more force with each stride. This increased power, along with sound technique, translates into improved running efficiency, allowing you to cover more distance with less energy expenditure. This efficiency is particularly crucial for long-distance runners, helping them maintain a steady pace throughout their runs.

2. Injury prevention

One of the most significant advantages of strength training for runners is injury prevention. Strengthening muscles and tendons around joints such as the ankle, knee and hip provides better support and stability, reducing the risk of common running injuries such as shin splints, IT band discomfort, and knee pain. Stronger muscles and joint structures can withstand the repetitive impact of running, decreasing the likelihood of overuse injuries.

3. Enhanced muscle balance

Running primarily engages certain muscle groups. Over time, particularly with inefficient technique, this can create muscle imbalances, leading to increased injury risk. Strength training focusing on single leg exercises such as lunges, step ups and single leg jumps should be a staple in your gym routine. Including these moves will help ensure a balanced development in the lower body. This will be crucial for maintaining proper running form and reducing strain on specific muscles or joints.

My top strength training tips for runners

Running, for the most part, is a high-volume activity with lots of low-level repeated stimuli. So I’d recommend using your strength work to fill the gaps to what running isn’t giving you.

This could include some heavy low repetition compound exercises such as a deadlift, squat or lunge. Some speed and power training such as jumps and plyometrics to help boost force production.

Personal trainer Ollie Thompson. Picture: Keith Heppell
Personal trainer Ollie Thompson. Picture: Keith Heppell

Additionally, working on your upper body strength, your core in particular, will benefit your running also. Exploring some weighted rotational core exercises – such as a cable chop or ball toss – will be great for not only overall strength but also pelvic stability and mobility.

I hope you found this guidance helpful. Catch you in next month’s column.

Ollie specialises in helping career-focused professionals get into great shape, build long-term health and perform better in their work. Ollie works across Cambridge and London and offers both in-person and virtual personal training. To find out more, visit welltolead.com and follow Ollie on Instagram @olliethompsonhealth for more.

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