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Is strength training or running better for you?

Updated: Aug 30, 2022

Strength training is becoming more popular as runners recognise the cross over and the many benefits that strength training has for their running.

The benefits of strength training and the benefits of running are summarised below (but there are many more!):

Benefits of running and strength training

Is one better than the other?

And how much is too much? The answer of course depends on what your goals are!

If you are more serious about your running times and/or running longer distances, then you are going to need to run more. However, there is evidence to suggest that sometimes more running is not actually better (after a certain point).

Arguably, the more you run then the more important strength training becomes. Running is one foot after the other, many times. When you are running you are also moving forward - in one plane of motion. These factors make overuse injuries very common (as with any repetitive action).

Strength training helps because you will:

  • move through different planes of motion

  • strengthen and balance out the weaker muscles

  • strengthen the muscles that help to support your running.

Lifting heavy will help build muscle. More strength training will make you stronger. But it is a balance as too much strength training will impact on your running and vice versa. Again, it comes back to your goals and what you want to achieve.

Seasonal training

You can take into account that strength training, like running, can be cyclical and seasonal. When you are in your running "off season" this would be the time to increase the frequency of your strength sessions. The off season is a "better" time to work on becoming stronger by lifting heavier to build more strength.

When you are focusing on a running event, you may decrease the frequency of your strength training. Opting for a maintenance plan and/or one that focuses more on injury prevention and mobility.

Do women need to train differently to men?

Women in particular will benefit from strength plans that help to keep their knees tracking properly when they run and minimise any tilt or drop in their hips as they land. Sorry ladies, yet another thing you can blame on our wider hips! Think of lots of single leg work and abduction movements.

Age is also an important consideration. Especially for those women who are going through or have been through menopause. At this time your levels of oestrogen take a significant dive. Meaning that your muscle mass and bone density also take a hit.

Thus strength training becomes even more important if you are in this life stage as it will help retain more muscle and bone density. Which in turn will help keep you running for longer. If you have to choose between an easy run, or your strength session (because you can't fit both in), choose strength!

To summarise...

Whether running or strength training is better for you will depend on you and your goals. But both have an important role in any running programme! I know that as I mature, strength training is an important tool to keep me running injury free.

Do you need help with strength work that will actually improve your running? I design strength programmes for my clients that they can do at home or at a gym. If you want some guidance, contact me to ask how I can help you improve your running!


Sparkle Fitness


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