Runners are a breed of their own and I can say that because I am one. I can safely say no matter what type of a runner you are, or how many races you have under your belt, we all share one common goal and that is to get out and feel the ground underneath us and experience that feeling of confidence, freedom and well-being that running gives us.

For outsiders looking in, our lives seem to revolve around a ‘boring’ sport of putting one foot in front of the other. People who run know it is not that simple to fit in speed work, hills, distance runs in all kinds of weather to reach their goals.

A lot of runners just run but we must incorporate other exercises into our training schedule if we hope to reach our full running potential. Strength training is an important form of exercise for serious athletes and recreational exercisers alike.

If you want to perform at your full potential you need to take a comprehensive approach to your running. That means targeting areas of fitness like flexibility, balance, mobility and strength. The old belief that runners don’t need to strength train is out-dated.

Supplementing running with strengthening exercises will make you a stronger, faster and more efficient runner. Distance runners are lean but that does not mean they are weak. The stronger the runner, the faster and more efficient they become. This does not mean just strong legs; the whole body needs to be strong.

The problem with strength training and runners is that most have no knowledge of what it entails and how often to do it. Runners need a different strength training programme than your standard gym workout and they should focus on working the key muscles that will keep them balanced.

My advice would be to get guidance from a good strength training coach to pinpoint your weaknesses and work towards getting balance and stability to strengthen weak muscles. Strength training should be performed two to three times a week.

Make sure to perform the exercise in a safe and effective manner, with proper technique and muscle control, to create balance throughout your entire body. Always engage your core muscles to support any upper body work and maintain good posture. Many of the exercises that you do will work several muscle groups at a time, thereby reducing the time needed for each session. A great way to build strength in your legs is to run up hills.

The correct strength training programme will also help you lose fat because it boosts your metabolism. Lightness is always a benefit for runners and improves endurance. If you are already strength training and not seeing the results, it may be because you are not doing the right kind of training.

Make sure to ease back on the strength work the week you are running a race as your muscles will need time to recover so that you can get the most out of yourself on race day.

There are many different forms of training that can complement your running like yoga, pilates, kettlebells etc. When I was in my prime I did a lot of training with a 5kg medicine ball, particularly for upper body strength. Gym work wasn’t something I particularly enjoyed but I knew it would make me a stronger athlete.

With a lean and strong physique, you will hold off muscle fatigue and be efficient for longer. Most runners just want to run but it is advisable to do specific strength training that you enjoy and can fit into your schedule. In time you will see and feel the benefits.

www.catherinamckiernan.com

Irish Independent