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I came across a great article (Taipale et al. (2010). Strength training in endurance runners. Int J Sports Med, 31(7), 468-76. Epub Apr 29.) on combining strength training and endurance running.

Runners are usually hesitant to step foot in the gym because they believe only running will make them a better runner.

For those that DO step in to the gym, the exercise selection and program consists of machines and circuit training…makes sense right?  Circuit training with high reps should help with the endurance needed to run a fast 1okm, shouldn’t it?  Not quite…

This study examined effects of periodized maximal versus explosive strength training and reduced strength training, combined with endurance training, on neuromuscular and endurance performance.

Quick notes on this study:

  • This study looked at recreational endurance runners
  • Subjects first completed 6 weeks of preparatory strength training.
  • Groups were created with a different program design (8 weeks of training) and exercise focus: maximal strength (MAX, n=11), explosive strength (EXP, n=10) and circuit training (C, n=7)
  • Following, was 14 weeks of reduced strength training.  I believe the study included this phase to simulate the tapper during the racing season.

The study measured:

  • Maximal strength (1RM)
  • EMG of leg extensors
  • Countermovement jump (CMJ),
  • Maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max)
  • Velocity at VO2 max
  • Running economy (RE)
  • Basal serum hormones

The study found improvements in maximum strength and countermovement jump (p<0.05) in all groups – also increased EMG in MAX (maximum strength group) and EXP (explosive strength group) (p<0.05) during strength training.

Minor changes occurred in VO2 max, but velocity at VO2 max improved in all groups (p<0.05) and running economy in EXP (explosive training group) (p<0.05).

During reduced strength training maximum strength and EMG activity decreased in the maximum training group (p<0.05) while the velocity at VO2 max in MAX (maximum training group) and EXP (explosive training group) (p<0.05) and running economy in MAX (maximum training group) (p<0.01) all improved.

They found serum testosterone and cortisol levels unaltered.

I’ll quote the article because they sum it up best:

“Maximal or explosive strength training performed concurrently with endurance training was more effective in improving strength and neuromuscular performance and in enhancing the velocity at VO2 max and running economy in recreational endurance runners than concurrent circuit and endurance training.”

What does this mean for you?

 
1.  Circuit training is not effective strength training for a recreational endurance runner.  I am going to speculate with much certainty that this approach doesn’t bode well for a trained endurance runner either.

2.  Strength train with heavy sets of 5 or less with long breaks – 3-4 minutes between sets.

3.  Lift heavy at the right time of year – don’t ruin your legs during racing season.

4.  Explosive strength training AKA plyometric training should form a major component of your strength and conditioning program.  It has been shown to improve running economy and racing performance via multiple physiological mechanisms.

Thanks for reading,

-JK

photo credit: sashamd via photopin cc

I had spent a fair bit of time in gyms in my teens and twenties but I turned away from the gym to focus on activities that I enjoyed more. What keeps me at JKC is that I do really enjoy it. I always feel that I’ve accomplished something when I leave at the end of my workout. The environment is really positive and focused on challenging yourself whatever your level of comfort and fitness. I’ve also seen results that I’m really happy with; having someone who really knows what they’re talking about to guide your workouts makes them way more effective and focused than just “going to the gym”.

Shortly after I started at JKC, I sustained a fairly major injury that took me off my feet for several months. When I started to get back to activity, it was very difficult. Jon and Thomas worked hard to tailor my workouts to my goals and what I could do. With their help, I’ve been steadily building back strength and function.

Not having much if any experience with professional gyms I though it would be along the lines of going to a facility and doing your own thing, getting some instructions from time to time, if you asked for it, and for most part working out on your own, in a large impersonalized setting. I was a bit apprehensive as I figured I’d be standing around a lot looking at all this equipment wondering what to do with it, or worst doing something to hurt myself. Well I couldn’t have been more wrong. Both Jon and Thomas are very attentive, professional trainers, who lay-out an exercise program, from start to finish, for you. They demonstrate the exercise they want you to do and then watch you do it to make sure you got it right. Jon and Thomas are very thorough, patience and non-assuming.

Astrid Billfalk-Kelly

Personal Strength Training by Thomas King

I wanted to add strength training to my cardio, but have always felt gyms to be a bit intimidating, and was worried I would hurt myself without some supervision and help. JKC was highly recommended by several work colleagues. Thomas and Jon are both fantastic, making sure that everyone gets a highly personalized work out in a very supportive environment. The attention to detail and professionalism are second to none. The groups are very small, but very supportive and make the workouts even more fun. Since getting pregnant (36 weeks as I write this) I’m so happy that they continue to help me get stronger while always being safe.

I heard really good things about it from my sister, and I could see the positive results she was getting.  I needed to do something.  I was overweight, depressed, and recovering from a back injury.  I had reached a point where simply getting up out of a chair was becoming difficult.  I knew that if I didn’t do something about it my senior years would be very burdensome to the people close to me.  I’m so glad I did!  After just a few weeks my day-to-day pain was drastically reduced, and my mobility increased. I had the confidence to try sea kayaking, and I now play ice hockey twice a week!

The key difference is the expertise.  The trainers know the gym equipment and the exercises, but they also have degrees in kinesiology, and can apply what they know to your workout.  As someone who was in poor physical condition starting out, I was worried about hurting myself.  Previously I tried an outdoor weekly bootcamp and injured my knee by pushing too hard.  The trainers at JKC constructed a program that started at the right level for me, evolving it as I grew stronger and more fit.  I feel well looked after.

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I had tried JKC based on the recommendation of a parent of one of my students. I originally started by attending Saturday drop in classes. I was hooked. I decided to join full time when I I had taken a year off from teaching and it was the best thing I have done for myself.

First and foremost the trainers at JKC are extremely knowledgeable. I feel like they are as dedicated to my success as I am. The workouts are tailored to me, my skills and my goals. This is important. Jon and Thomas truly want the best for their clients no matter what level of fitness they are starting from. I also like being able to book a session at a time that suits my schedule. This also helps keep me accountable. Once the session is booked I am not likely to cancel!

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