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Athletic development specialists dedicated to the art and science of excellence in movement

Individualization of Strength Training: Considerations for Runners and Endurance Athletes

This question below was presented on TheRunZone today and I thought it would be worthwhile to post my response here, since it is very much on point to our training philosophy.

 “Can someone tell me about the pros and cons of weights for running and which weights to do?”

REPLY: Here are a couple of hypothetical questions to help answer that question:
-If you have a headache....how do you know to take a Tylenol or whether you need brain surgery?
-If you have chest pains....how do you know to simply take some deep breaths to relax or whether to schedule a bypass?

Brain surgery is great...if you need brain surgery.  Likewise, any type of weight training is only good if it is appropriate for you and administered in such a way to address your specific needs.   Far too often people get sloppy in the strength area with one-size-fits-all approaches.  (And no, doing the same randomly chosen workout for someone else but modifying quantity and weight does not count as individualization).  If someone has movement flaws, the last thing I want to do is put them under a weighted load to ingrain those faults even more deeply and expose them to greater risk.  In those cases, more strength just gives them the ability to do bad movement more powerfully! 

If you want to avoid treating a headache with Tylenol when you really need brain surgery, it is important to entrust your care to someone capable of making the proper up-front assessment.  Same thing with strength...if you want to give the body the appropriate antidote for what it needs to support your running, finding someone who can provide that individualized assessment is more important than what anyone says about the pros and cons of weights in general terms.  The choice of resistance training forms is less important than the means by which it is delivered and the manner in which it is tailored to address your own limitations.

That said, women can generally benefit from some form of resistance training as an insurance policy for bone and connective tissue health.  There are also hormonal and psychosocial benefits as well.  For experienced runners, the link to performance from weight training is indirect at best.  Inexperienced or poorly trained runners might benefit directly simply because the addition of ANY new stimulus can raise performance in the short term.  To the extent there is a benefit for experienced runners, it mostly results from the interaction with other training factors to promote consistency through fewer missed training days.  If you are finding substantial direct performance benefits from weights that you aren't getting from running, then I'd say your original run training protocol wasn't very good! 

There are no real "cons" to getting stronger (if done appropriately), though a poorly administered program can be anything from a mere waste of time to a total disaster.  A program that is appropriately tailored to your specific needs can only be a good thing.  

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