Strength training for efficiency
By now, it may sound like a familiar refrain (at least if you’ve been reading this column regularly): regular strength training can help you run more efficiently. Several studies over the past decade have pointed to this conclusion. The latest addition isn’t a new study, but rather a meta-analysis of the five highest-quality studies looking at the effect of strength training on running economy – a measure of how much oxygen you require to run at a given pace, analogous to a car’s fuel economy – in competitive distance runners.
The results, published in the Jour nal of St rength and Conditioning Research by researchers in Spain and Greece, suggest that eight to 12 weeks of strength training offers a “large, beneficial effect” corresponding to a three to four per cent improvement in running economy. Most of the studies involved lifting “low to moderate” loads two or three times a week, sometimes with the addition of plyometric jumps and short sprints. There’s still plenty of work needed to figure out what the best strength training routine for distance runners is, but it’s increasingly clear that the benefits go beyond looking good.