Summer Strength Training and Running

When the warm weather sets in we like to ditch the gym and head outdoors. We can run, bike, swim, hike, rollerblade, and be active outside. I hear quite often that people are running to get their workouts in rather than still working out at the gym. I am a runner myself and definitely enjoy feeling the warm weather and sometimes would rather be outside than inside a gym.

But are we really staying active enough? Are you losing your muscle and strength by doing just cardiovascular aerobic exercises? We tend to get injured when doing the same repetitive motions over and over again. Runners should most certainly strength train throughout the warm weather season, keeping them strong and safe.

Many runners can have the fear that they will be too muscular. Becoming too muscular can have negative consequences due to increased weight gain and mitochondrial dilution. Gaining muscle will be less energy efficient. Mitochondrial dilution is when your mitochondria, the powerhouses of your cell, become diluted; your muscle fibers increase but the stuff inside the cells does not. Thus, it has to try really hard to power the muscle, even though the muscle is much larger than what the cells can power, making muscles easier to fatigue. But it has been proven that a heavy resistance training protocol is beneficial in keeping up speed, efficiency, and tendon strength. Therefore, you should not completely ditch strength training out of your regimen while running in the summer.

When running is your main form of exercise our body starts to get stronger in some areas and weaker in others. Weakened areas are most commonly the gluteus maximus and tight areas are the hip flexors, tensor fascia lata, and hamstrings. Basically the hamstrings (muscles on the back of your thigh) take over hip extension (when your leg goes backwards) instead of the gluteus maximus. This can put more stress on the lumbar spine, causing your erector spinae (muscles running along your spine) to become very tight and low back pain to occur.

Another tightened area is the iliotibial, IT, band. IT band pain occurs when the gluteus medius, a muscle used for stabilizing during single leg exercise, is weakened due to not being used during running. This weakened muscle allows for the hips to slightly sway back and forth while running. The muscle that covers the sides of your hips is called the tensor fascia lata, which was previously mentioned as usually tight. The iliotibial band connects to the TFL; a tight TFL will make for a tight IT band. IT band pain causes friction, irritation, and inflammation along the side of the knee.

Focusing on helping make your body symmetrical and working properly can ensure that your running stays strong and injury-free. Doing 2-3 strength-training sessions a week can be very beneficial. When you are in the gym strength training, it’d be wise to focus on single-leg work, posterior chain work, explosive exercises, and core exercises. This will strengthen the weakened areas of your body due to long-term running. Foam rolling areas such as your IT band and hamstrings can be very beneficial in relaxing those overused muscles.

Remember to continue strength training in addition to your running throughout the warm weather months to keep your body safe and strong!

What are Strength Exercises for Runners? Check out this link for more info:The Science and the Programming. Kawamoto, Jon-Erik. February 9.

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