Jim2's Running Page

Weight Training

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I do weight training 2-3 times per week. I use machines exclusively. Two reasons. One, I find them to be convenient and easy to use. Two, I started weight training very late in life and was intimidated by most of the free weight guys....mostly hunky iron pumpers while I'm a scrawny guy. A cardiologist, who I was seeing for the first time a few years ago, walked into the room where I was sitting without a shirt on and promptly declared in a loud voice "You are PUNY!!" He's right.....at least above the waist. But, I'll match my legs with almost anyone. :-)

Back to weight training. My routine, done on machines at a fitness center rather than free weights, includes 4 sets of 12 repetitions each on leg extension, leg curl, abductor, adductor and calf raise machines, plus 6 sets of 12 reps each of leg presses. My upper body work consists of 2 sets of 12 reps each on 6 different upper body machines that work all the major muscle groups in my chest, back, arms and shoulders. My complete routine takes about an hour and I do it twice per week. Then, I do my running for that day on the treadmill while I'm still warm from the weight workout.

The exception to this is on my long run day when I run in the morning and, sometimes, do a weight workout in the afternoon. It would be my third weight session for the week and I abbreviate it to 30-45 minutes.

I certainly see nothing wrong with using either free weights, machines, or home made methodologies, such as using common household items as weights. Even doing weight bearing exercises without weights, such as pushups, pull-ups, squats, etc, will help. Just whatever you are more comfortable with. Weight training in any form will only help your running. It makes anyone a stronger runner.....better able to sustain both pace and distance. Leg weight work also promotes faster paces since it develops and strengthens fast twitch fibers, along with slow twitch fibers, which are essential to sustaining a faster stride rate over a longer distance.

For maximum running benefit, weight work should not be bulk-building, which translates to extra weight than one must haul around. This is especially important for guys, who are more susceptible to bulking than gals. Optimum weight training for runners utilizes lower weights and higher reps than body building weight work. Machoism and "testosterone flexing" is out of place for the runner in the weight room.

Some say that weight work for runners is only necessary for the upper body and that running itself takes care of all of the lower body's development needs. I disagree. I know how much stronger my legs are when I do regular weight work. And that helps me to sustain a faster pace longer, push my way up hills easier and power my way through faster finishing kicks. Weight training works and develops leg muscles differently than running does.

Weight training also strengthens leg muscles and tendons which are used minimally in the "forward only" motion of running. Particularly those involved in lateral motion, which running doesn't involve, and lifting, which isn't a factor in running except when running uphill or downhill. Why is this important to runners? Simple.....injury prevention.

Injury prevention is, arguably, the most valuable benefit of weight training to runners. Most running injuries occur from over stressing a particular muscle or tendon.....often either the too much, too soon, the overload syndrome or a sudden unexpected movement. Weight training will push back the threshold of each. I think that weight training is especially important for injury prevention to the runner who incorporates speed work and/or very long runs into his/her program. This is when the stresses of running increases significantly. However, it will benefit runners of all levels.

I consider upper body work to be secondary, but still important, to a runner. A strengthened upper body helps you to maintain form, thus running efficiency, in the late stages of a long race.