Strength and Conditioning to support running
As part of the National Running Show we hosted a special VIP session for our Run Leaders to come and take part in interactive discussion sessions with experts in the fields of Psychology, Nutrition, and Strength & Conditioning. Experts that shared their knowledge and insight, to help our Run Leaders improve their running and further support their runners.
This feature focuses on strength and conditioning, a session that was facilitated by Mike Carolan (MSc BSc (hons) GSR CSCS BWL CSAC), lecturer in Sports Rehabilitation and Strength and Conditioning at the University of Salford, Strength and Conditioning Coach, British Weightlifting Coach, Athletics Coach, Sports Rehabilitation Therapist & Sports Nutrition Advisor at Sportcity.
The strength and conditioning workshop focused on the benefits of strength training to support runners, suggested guidelines for activity and exercises that could be done at home and/or as part of group sessions.
There have been numerous studies linking the benefits of targeted strength and conditioning interventions that not only benefit performance sport but can also impact on physical health and preventing injuries that stop you from running – improving health and wellbeing, hormonal health, sleep quality, reducing risks of diseases like cancer and diabetes, and more recently reported effects on improving mental health.
New government guidelines advise we should do at least 2 resistance training sessions per week.
There are many misconceptions around strength training and its effects or requirements, to ‘myth bust’ here are a few pointers;
- Time: with the correct plan training twice per week can be enough to enhance all the above, you can also micro-dose other exercises within warm-ups for example, to maximise exposure to necessary strength exercises.
- Access to and need for equipment: if your training experience is low, then conducting home workouts using bodyweight exercises correctly is enough.
- Weight gain affecting running ‘muscle is heavy’: unless you adjust your dietary intake and train for muscle gain you won’t ‘gain weight’. In fact, within the first 3 weeks of any training program the only change is in the nervous system and its efficiency to use your muscles better and more efficiently therefore costing less energy and allowing you to run faster!
How do we incorporate strength and conditioning?
Strategies for runners to incorporate strength and conditioning training into their programmes, include…
Sounds like a fancy concept, however, rather than one or two big sessions of training, you can in fact break this down into smaller chunks, using the RAMP warm-up protocol as an example.
RAMP stands for Raise, Activate, Mobilise and Potentiate, and can last as little as 4 minutes or as long as 20-30 minutes, depending on group size, time, weather and location.
Raise – this is where we get the heart and brain going, it doesn’t have to be fancy, sometimes it can be a game of some kind, and incorporate exercises such as squats, lunges and press ups for reps of 5-15 for initial strength work.
Activate – depending on surroundings and group size, exercises such as glute bridges, side planks, calf raises and dead bugs, to ‘fire up’ the core and glute muscles.
Mobilise – perform mobility exercises that include some static (stationary) and dynamic (movement) stretches, as well as more challenging yoga inspired moves.
Potentiate – this is where you rev the engine and make sure you’re ready to go. This final preparation often involves some form of jumping, bouncing and more challenging activities, and could include short sprints which can feed into ‘speed work’.
Suggested home exercises for strength:
- Glutes/hamstrings – single leg hip thrusts, glutes bridges, backwards lunges, skydivers, hamstring tantrums.
- Quadriceps – wall sits, step-ups, forward lunges, backwards squat walks, single leg split squats, single leg sit to stands.
- Foot/calf muscles – high heel walks, heel raises, towel scrunches.
- Hips – side planks, Copenhagen side planks, kneeling leg lift, glute bridge marches.
- Trunk ‘core’ muscles – dead bugs, hollow holds, bear crawls, inchworms, frog pumps.
You only train strength if we can only do the exercise no more than 6 repetitions, so if you feel you can do more than 3x6 then either add another set of 6 or find a way to challenge yourself more, such as a weighted back pack/vest or some external resistance/weights to challenge you more.
Some exercises also require you to hold the position, but again anything more than 30 seconds may require you to increase the challenge.
An example session could be:
- 3x5 single leg hip thrusts (each side/leg)
- 3x5 single leg (rear foot elevated) split squats (each side/leg)
- 3x5 backwards lunges (alternate sides)
- 3x10 metre bear crawls
- 3x15 seconds side planks (each side)
Thanks to Mike for leading the insightful and interactive strength and conditioning sessions and thanks to our Run Leaders who attended and engaged in great conversation and discussion.