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Strength and Conditioning for runners

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Injuries are an undesirable outcome of any sport as they reduce pleasure in exercise and can result in us temporarily or permanently having to take time away from the sport or even work.

As standards and professionalism have improved in sport, so too has an interest in understanding the science that underpins physical preparation for winning performances. As a result, we are able to regularly witness mind-blowing achievements by runners worldwide.

Specialist sport science support is often recognised as a critical factor in these achievements with strength and conditioning emerging as a vital piece of the sports performance jigsaw.

Strength and conditioning is associated with any training method that enhances physical preparedness outside of a running programme. It is typically used alongside running programmes to achieve three main outcomes:

  • Improving performance
  • Increasing the capacity for training
  • Reducing the likelihood of injury

Whilst running is a great way to strengthen the cardiovascular system and the muscles that move us forward, it does not strengthen the muscles that stabilise us in the lateral and rotational plane. These muscles are vital to reducing the likelihood of injury and achieving your performance goals.

Despite the evidence that strength and conditioning for runners is worthwhile, it still gets a mixed response from runners, coaches and scientists.

Those that don’t do strength and conditioning often claim that strength training is associated with building muscle, which is widely accepted as a disadvantage to our performances as a runner. However, strength refers to the ability to produce force under specific conditions, and as runners, we need to produce high amounts of force in a short amount of time.

You can use strength training methods that target the neuromuscular system to induce strength gains that transfer to better running performances and strengthen the muscles you use to run without adding unwanted body mass.

A comprehensive strength and conditioning programme will include exercises that condition musculoskeletal structures in the areas of your body that are commonly injured or most at risk. The following areas are recommended for targeting with conditioning exercises:

  • Trunk muscles
  • Calf tendons
  • Achilles tendons
  • Intrinsic muscles of the feet
  • Hamstrings
  • Hip-stabilising muscles

To benefit from a more holistic approach to training, its beneficial to train less like a runner and more like an athlete.

Strength and conditioning for runners is not just reserved exclusively for elite athletes. Any runner can incorporate it into their routine, and every runner should consider themselves as an athlete.

The sport of running demands you bring certain physical qualities and skills to the table, so don’t settle for substandard running performance or injury.

Train like an athlete and run with joy.

Blaine Clancy Lead Strength and Conditioning Coach, Warwick Sport

Blaine has an MSc in Sport and Exercise Biomechanics and is interested in holistic performance management, powerlifting, and education and coach development.


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