On the 23rd April, 2017 thousands of runners will take to the streets of London to take part in the London marathon. Hundreds of endless of miles run in preparation, participants will prey all their running training has paid off. Those gruelling miles in training however will no doubt have taken their toll.
Can you benefit your long-distance running performance by not just running!?
The answer is Yes! Of course running for distance still needs to carried out. However, figure 1 below demonstrates visually the different contributing factor to performance. For the purpose of this blog the 26-mile classification will be the focus. As you can see running economy, lactate threshold and VO2 capacity are all contributing factors to long-distance performance.
Figure 1. Contributions for distance running performance (adapted from Storen et al, 2008)
A study of 17 well-trained long distance runners (male and female) took part in an 8-week strength training programme. The results showed the subjects were able to run for longer at maximum speed without any changes made to their VO2max or body-weight (Storen et al, 2008). To put that into perspective; your VO2 max, which is extremely important for distance running performance, can only be improved up to a point.
Runners you MUST do strength-training in the form or resistance training!
For those of you unsure on what running economy is exactly, it is the amount of energy you use, for example your running style. If you have a poor style and weak tendon strength, then you will use a lot of energy and therefore a lot of oxygen with every stride you take. If you waste energy you will fatigue! This is why economy is so important. If you turn your attention to strength-training your energy usage will be a lot lower and your oxygen usage will also be a lot lower per stride you take! Tendon’s will be stronger, muscles will be stronger, joints will be stronger, style will be better… the list goes on! Runners if you do anything this year to help improve your performance for the marathon or any long-distance competition for that matter, and at the same time want no changes to your body-weight, then please incorporate strength-training into your schedule. Not only will strength-training improve your running economy (as stated) but also it will improve your lactate threshold (in simple terms you will be able to deal with the build-up of lactic acid better).
Storen et al (2008). Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise, 40(6), pp 1087-1092.