I’ve been running for many years, but I’ve never truly considered myself a runner, especially a distance runner. I felt like I was a slow distance runner and didn’t have the capacity to improve. I would say, “I’m a better sprinter” or “I’m built for strength training.” However, all of the lies that I told myself have been exposed. In the past two years, I’ve taken over 6 minutes off of my 5k time, most recently running at a 7:16 pace, and have run two half marathons, the second at an 8:02 pace. I’m still not winning overall awards, but I’m happy with my times and astonished by my improvement.
I’m often asked how often I run, and the truth is, I generally only run once or twice a week. Other than that, I cross train. I play Ultimate frisbee, which requires so much sprinting that it’s basically forced interval training, which is essential for increasing speed endurance, and I do a lot of strength training. Many runners only run long distance, but only logging long runs, without speed or strength training, reduces a runners explosive muscle power and causes a breakdown in efficiency and form.
Strength training not only increases strength, it also helps to correct muscle imbalances and weaknesses that can lead to injury. Full body strength training is important for runners, but if you’re only going to do a few exercises, be sure to hit the most important muscles: quads, hamstrings, glutes, and core. Check out this article: The Four Best Strength Training Exercises for Runners.
One note, research shows that intense strength training will reduce a runners time to exhaustion within 6 hours, and possibly up to 24 hours so strength workouts should not be completed before a tough run (though a light jog several hours or a day after strength training can help reduce the lactic acid that causes muscle soreness). Bottom line, a tough (maximum effort) run should be completed before your strength work out. For example do your tough run in the morning and strength training in the evening of the same day. If you run again the next morning, it should be an easier (submaximal) run.
Don’t forget to properly nourish and hydrate before, during, and after your run, especially as the South Florida heat becomes more intense. Happy running!!