Intervals, sprints, tempos, running from the Zombie Apocalypse…all of these are proven methods for helping you become a faster runner. There’s something missing from this list though, and while many runners don’t do it at all, it strengthens the fascia, tendons, ligaments, and bones all at once. It increases your ability to run faster without it feeling harder on your lungs. It leads to a more powerful stride, and most importantly, it can help prevent injury.
Lack of time is often cited as a main reason runners don’t bother with regular strength training; after all, there are only so many hours in a day. And the thought of weight lifting often conjures up images of muscle-bound meatheads like you see in the Planet Fitness commercials: “Did you feel the burn bro?”
But you don’t have to sacrifice your running time or turn into a meathead to reap the benefits of strength work, and what if I told you that you can run and lift at the same time and don’t even need to set foot in a gym!? Too good to be true?
Not if you circuit train!
Circuit training is a high-intensity workout combining cardio and strength training. It can be done by performing one strength exercise after another with no rest between exercises, or by combining cardio and strength training. Either method gets the heart and the muscles pumping, burns fat, and facilitates aerobic and muscle development. For time-pressed runners, combining running and lifting is truly the best of both worlds. According to an article by running coach and author Jeff Gaudette on Competitor Online, “…you can use circuit training to develop running-specific strength while still getting in an aerobic workout. Not only will this make you a better runner, but it will also begin to address some of the structural imbalances causing your injury in the first place.” Read the full article here: http://running.competitor.com/2014/02/training/the-benefits-of-circuit-training-for-runners_61940/1
During this winter’s Polar Vortex I used my treadmill, weights, and imagination to get some miles and muscle building in via circuit training. I’d run ½ mile at 10k pace, then do 8-12 reps of a lower body exercise (think squats, lunges, deadlifts) followed by 8-12 reps of an upper body exercise (pushups, presses, rows, dips). Repeat until the desired number of miles and exercise sets are completed. Choose a weight that’s heavy enough to really make you work for the last couple reps.
No treadmill? No problem! Do the same circuit outside using body-weight exercises for the strength portions. Walking lunges, bodyweight squats (the single leg version really torches the glutes), reaching deadlifts, pushups and dips. The possibilities are endless, and you can choose strength exercises to really target your weak areas. In her post, Beginner’s Guide to Weight Training for Runners, Cilantro has a great list, along with some youtube videos that demonstrate.
Getting faster and becoming more injury resistant are two things at the top of most runners’ wish list. Circuit training can help in both areas, and building some muscle with your speed just might save you from the zombies.
Have you ever tried circuit training? Is there anything that would prevent you from trying it?