How many times do you see or hear of an Endurance athlete finishing an Endurance event and saying “my lungs couldn’t keep up with my legs?”. I’m going to assume very rarely!
This, to me, presents another question. What does your strength training look like?
Typically I hear one of two things:
1. I don’t strength train, and I don’t want to put on weight because lighter is faster.
2. I hit the gym a few times per week.
As a strength and conditioning coach, neither of these answers leave me feeling satisfied! The myth that strength training HAS to make you big or bulky has long been debunked! Can it make you bulky? Well, of course! Arnold didn’t look like he did from running marathons. He lifted weights, but he did it specifically to add mass! (He may have had some other help along the way as well). Not all weight training yields the same results!
Here is a breakdown of how I view strength training for an Endurance athlete, specifically a runner.
When I see an athlete run, I immediately start looking for “leaks.” Yes, I’m judging all of you, at all times! These leaks are areas in which you are producing power, but not reaping the benefits of the power you produce!
Sounds like a bad plan to me! It’s like taking a car to the drag strip with 800HP but a clutch that can only transfer 500HP. Or imagine a race boat in the water that’s shaped like a box. No matter what power you produce, you can only go so fast! So, when I see leaks in running technique, I then start to figure out why they are happening!
A majority of the time there is a glaring weakness. For example, if an athlete is running with their hips back and chest forward they aren’t able to transfer all of their power forward. Their hips are stuck behind their center of mass. Not only is it inefficient, it’s hard on the low back as it’s supporting the weight of a falling over torso!
There are many weaknesses that can cause this. The two primary issues here are weak glutes and week low abs. A couple of quick tests can tell you right away what needs to be addressed. So to finish off this example, if we see a weakness in the low abs, we implement regular strength work that targets that area and draws attention to the athletes running technique in that area as well.
I need to make one point that creates an assumption that lines up with the style of running I teach and am referring to. A natural, chi or pose, style of running demands a strong midline, good posture, and strong fast hamstrings/glutes. Though demanding, this style of running is very efficient when all of these components line up (another post that will be out soon).
With the above assumption in place, I want to talk about the importance of hamstring strength and speed. A weak hamstring will cause a weak pull from the ground each stride a runner takes. This will then cause bad positioning on the pull and put the runner’s whole body out of position. While out of position, the runner will begin to use and rely on muscles that are not designed to do the job they are forced to be doing. After all, if you sign up to run 26.2, you’re going to run 26.2 regardless of what technique you use to run those miles. So by the end of the race, your breathing isn’t a factor, but your knee, foot, hip, ankle, or some other ache and pain will likely be showing its face.
So what’s the solution?? A Strong, Stable body with enough muscular Stamina to maintain technique, positioning, and posture throughout the duration of your event. This is the type of focused strength training that will provide the Strength to Endure your long races!