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The Neglected Piece to Better Distance Running Performance

Running can be one of the most beneficial exercises that you can do to stay in shape, and stay strong. Some people do it recreationally, competitively, to relax, meditate, or just to maintain or stay in shape.

Running too excessively can cause muscle pain, achy joints, stiff tendons, which will ultimately lead to a decreased performance in your runs.

Aside from just getting rest where needed, one modality that can reduce the negative effects of too much running is strength training.

A true structured program that progressively cycles between strength, power, even maximal strength is enough to not only improve your running times, form, energy preservation during your runs, but also create stronger joints and tendons that will be able to maintain and manage heavy volumes of running.

If I Want to Get Better At Running, Shouldn’t I just Run More??

No not quite. A question that I get asked quite often.

Even for distance runners, there are several forces at work as you run that slowly over time wear down the joints and muscles, that strength training can reduce.

Yes running more can absolutely make you a more efficient runner. After all, practice makes “better”. Your running form, stride and speed technique are aspects of the run that must be done through running.

However, creating the forces that propel you forward, and absorb your weight each and every step can directly be enhanced through weight room work.

There are 3 phases to a run:

  • Propulsion Phase
  • Flight
  • Recovery (Absorption)

There is force that is generated to propel the body forward, and there is a reversal force used to stop and quickly redirect the force.

In a freeze frame , you will be able to see that runners will be in the air for a split second immediately following the propulsion. If your are 170lbs, that mean every step, your foot and ankle (knee, hip, trunk included) have to catch that weight and keep it moving forward.

Thus, if you are not as strong as you CAN be, then the effect of the distance can wear you down more quickly since your muscles and joints aren’t primed to generate and absorb the running forces, whether at low or high speeds.

How Strength Ties In

When we talk strength, thinks in terms of generating force.

What resistance training does for the body is stress it temporarily so that later on, the body can handle those stressors more efficiently.

Exercises like squats, lunges, even dumbbell rows are allowing the muscles to not just increase in size, but contract and generate the forces necessary for better movement.

Thus, an untrained (gym) distance runner with 3 years experience may run 5 miles at a certain time, but a runner that is versed in the weight room with the same running experience could be able to have a better time because his muscles won’t wear down as quickly throughout a run.

Because of his training, his joints and muscle can better propel him forward, absorb better the constant forces happening across the joints, and literally use less energy during the run. (I will not that strength training IN CONJUNCTION with good technique is the ultimate way to best use energy.)

In addition to this, when you incorporate strength training into your training regimen, you will also help reduce injury incidence and those nagging pains.

Again, if you are a “weaker” runner, because your muscles and joints are only able to handle a certain amount overtime, those running forces will travel through the body and carried over area that aren’t necessarily supposed to be taking on as much of a load, causing compensation patterns, aching muscles, and injury.

A “stronger” runners muscles will be able to absorb the forces throughout the movement chain more efficiently and better avoid energy leaks and the compensatory patterns since the joints and muscles are able to take on the load.

You will be able to run farther, burn less energy, and reduce injury risks.


Even though weight training isn’t usually what comes to mind for most distance runners, the science benefits are undeniable.

Again, if you are a 170 pound runner, pacing at 45 miles per week, that is 170 pounds you are moving for 45 miles.

Training the muscles to be stronger allows the body to work less and be more efficient at moving that weight. With training, it will take less forces to generate and move overtime.

So, if you want to improve your running, or stop being in pain, incorporate a resistance training strategy into your regimen to get bettert results.