Weight Training For Runners

Weight training is a tried and true way to combat the potential damage to joints and tendons caused by running.

As most people know by now, running is one of the best exercises to help develop and maintain good cardiovascular health.But let's face it; the high impact pressure on hard surfaces can do a number on our joints and tendons.If the terms, "runner's knee," "shin splints," or "Achilles tendonitis" sound familiar, you know that the physical strain of running can outweigh the enjoyment, or worse, cause a chronic condition that plagues even your non-running hours.A tried and true way to combat the potential damage to joints and tendons is to strengthen them with weight training.

Runners often blanche at the idea of weightlifting or weight training, thinking it will cause them to bulk up or lose flexibility.In reality, weight training, if done correctly, strengthens the tendons, ligaments, and other fibrous connective tissues, as well as the muscles and joints.Most of us visualize weight training resulting in the images we've seen of bodybuilders and power lifters.We picture huge men with thick necks and gigantic arms lifting impossible amounts of weight over their heads while grunting and groaning.Most people aren't built to shape their bodies that way, and the weight training that power lifters and bodybuilders practice is entirely different.Runners want to stay lean and trim, and rightly so. Think of weight training as a means, not of changing one's running abilities or appearance, but rather, of achieving better health.If proper weight training techniques are used, not only will a runner remain lean and trim, but his muscles and connective tissues will operate more efficiently. He'll gain muscle and lose fat,optimizing heart health.This gives a runner an edge. His running will be more efficient because he can train more aggressively and recover faster.And as for bulking up and losing flexibility, neither will happen.

A weight training regimen for runners, or anyone else wanting to strengthen while remaining lean, consists of multiple repetitions.Each exercise will consist of several repetitions in a set of specific exercises.For instance, when you do your leg press sets, you may have 3 sets of 15 reps. This means you'll do 15 leg presses, rest for a couple of minutes, do 15 more, rest again, and so on, until you've completed the 3 sets.At first glance, 45 reps on the leg press machine sounds like a lot, but it is important to understand that the more repetitions you do, the less weight you'll be lifting.Comparatively, a bodybuilder or power lifter trying to bulk up would do 3 sets of perhaps only 2 or 3 reps, and all with a very heavy weight.

As with any new training regimen, moderation is key.Weight training 2-3 days per week is plenty for starting out.At your first session, hire a trainer or counselor, or have an experienced weightlifter show you how to use the machines properly.You can do this with free weights or at home, but I suggest beginners use the machines at a gym.The machines are safer, and help can be obtained if necessary.

Here is a sample weight training regimen for the beginner:

1. Warmup:This is crucial.Always begin by doing some type of light aerobic exercise to quicken your pulse and loosen your muscles before using the weights.This can be done by spending 15-20 minutes on a stationary bicycle, treadmill, or by taking a light jog around a track.Once you start to break a sweat, you're warmed up enough.Never skip this step.Nothing spells injury faster than weightlifting cold.

2. Upper and Lower Body Training:These include bench press, shoulder press, lateral pulldowns, and curls for the upper body; leg press, leg curls, and calf lifts for the lower body.As explained earlier, plan to do 3 sets for each exercise, with about 15 reps in each set.Start with a low weight: something you can easily lift without much effort.If your muscles aren't the least bit tired at the end of the first set, slightly increase the weight for the second set.At the end of each set, your muscles should feel warm and slightly tired, but never fatigued or burning.If it starts to hurt, you're probably doing too much too soon.There are a couple of options on how to do your sets.Traditionally, you'll do all 3 sets on one machine, and then move on to the next.But if a gym is crowded or you just want some variety, you can go through one set on each machine, and then come back through for the second and third sets, respectively.

3. Matwork: After the machines, there are several exercises that can be done on a mat that don't require any special equipment.These include sit-ups, push-ups, back hyperextensions and toe taps.Many trainers will suggest using the large exercise ball, which, if used correctly, can be beneficial, as well.

4. Cooldown:It's just as important as the warmup.If you're quite winded and sweating from your exercises, you'll need a cooldown period before you stretch. This just means walking around a bit or jogging to stay warm, allowing your pulse to slow down.

5. Stretching:Always stretch completely after each workout. This will insure flexibility, help prevent injuries and increase your running efficiency.Take your time, and stretch everything from your neck to your toes, giving each stretch a 30-second count.The whole stretching process will take less than 20 minute, and you'll feel great when you're finished.

If this routine is done faithfully 3 days each week, results will often be noticed in as short as 6-8 weeks.Take your time, be safe, and enjoy!

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