As a runner, I have a tendency to focus too much of my energy on ONLY my running and endurance. I forget that my muscles need more than just running in order to stay strong and capable and that my body actually requires strength training in order to maintain my running form and endurance. Especially as I grow older, I’ve realized that I need to specifically work out certain muscle groups to keep them from atrophying; specifically, muscles in my lower body.
As a specific example, I have inactive glutes; for some reason, my body forgets to use them in daily physical activity. I need to put a resistance band around my legs and do a glute activator exercise before I run to remind my body that my glutes are there and ready to be used. I have found that focusing on my glute activator exercise, as well as performing general glute strengthening exercises (with weights), has helped my running form an exorbitant amount. On top of that already awesome benefit, I no longer have any pain in other parts of my leg when I run. It’s almost shocking how working out one (albeit large) muscle can positively impact the entire rest of the body!
Abdominals are another muscle group that do not get enough attention from runners, myself included. I tend to get lazy about ab workouts. As an amateur, I used to think that just by running, my ab muscles would stay in perfect shape. This turned out to be very untrue! During one of my abdominal exercise lapses, I realized that, as I ran, I developed severe pain in my pelvis—muscles I didn’t even realize I had were suddenly causing me to be unable to run.
I recalled that my physical therapist told me a year or so previously that I needed to do ab exercises to strengthen them and help with my running. I didn’t blow it off, exactly, but I had put it on the backburner in my workouts over time. I went back to doing the dead bugs she had prescribed me (they’re a weird, but extremely effective ab strengthener—look them up!). In no time, I was utilizing my abs properly as I ran and had zero pain. It’s funny how listening to your physical therapist can actually be helpful…
Even my quads, which I’ve always thought of as very strong, started giving me problems when I neglected them (I know, shocker). Now that I fully understand the importance of strength training, I incorporate it into every workout I do. It keeps me strong, and makes my running about 1,000 times easier, and more comfortable, which is certainly a plus!
Sometimes avid runners get into the mindset that strength training isn’t that important for them, but they’re very wrong. Runners need to be strong in order to be the best, pain-free versions of themselves. It doesn’t mean you have to become a bodybuilder; just hit those weights every few days and you should be good to go. And don’t forget your abs!