Utilizing strength training as part of a workout program for an endurance event has remarkable benefits. Gains in lifting are generally measured by increases in size and lifting PR's. However, when the goal is to run faster for a longer period of time, the concerns are redirected to whether an athlete's muscles can continue to push through the miles. Strength training and specific running workouts that follow designated intervals will provide just that.
Most people in the gym have a general concept as to what happens when they lift. In short, people get stronger. Strength for runners means noticeable performance gains that are shown through increased running economy. It’s really basic physics. With added strength, a runner can move farther through the air with each stride. Strength training also minimizes injuries by taking stress off the joints at impact. This doesn’t mean that everyone squatting over 400 lbs should be winning marathons. But without strength training, runners will start to break down over time and have to work harder to prevent plateaus.
A runner’s endurance capacity comes from actual run training and the race plan. Increasing mileage weekly, while following a race build up, trains the body to be able to continue putting power to the ground over a long period of time.
I’ve based my training program on both of these concepts. I’ve combined 2-3 days of strength training with a 5-day running schedule. My time commitment to lifting is capped at around 90 minutes per week. It’s not much in terms of lifting standards but paired with the time spent on run training, it adds a significant amount of volume to the program.
All in all, the plan is definitely working. During the first weeks of training, my longer runs were holding around a 9 min/mile pace. My peak training week had a 10-mile run that felt comfortable at around a 7:30 min/mile pace. That's a pretty drastic drop from the first few weeks of training, and it shows that the program is doing what it's designed to do.
The plan doesn’t call for me to push the pace during the longer runs, but the longer distance workouts are a great way to see how a faster training pace actually becomes a comfortable run over time. The only drawbacks or concerns that I have leading into the half marathon, is the amount of time in training leading up to the race. The program I designed was only around 9 weeks because of time constraints. I can tell that having another 3 weeks of buildup would have easily put me at my goal of a 1:40 half marathon. With that said, I’m positive that integrating a running specific strength plan, and including various interval-based running workouts into the overall mileage has been the key to my success thus far.
Using the Timex GPS+ One training watch has also been a game changer for my interval days and has kept me in check on my mileage days. For my interval days, I was able to program the watch to tell me exactly when I needed to begin an interval, and what pace I needed to stick to. I also set top-line and bottom-line warnings for longer distance days to ensure I stayed within my training margins. I’m a week and a half out from the race, and I’m excited to put my training to test. Check back for a post race update to see how it all turns out.
Cody Harter is the Owner of Harter Strength & Conditioning in Brookline, MA. For more training details and photos check out harterstrength.com or follow him on Instagram @codyharter and Facebook @HarterStrength