Running and The Importance of Strength Training: 5 Things You Need to Know By Rebecca Cox


You may think running is purely about endurance, but have you thought about including strength training into your regular regime to make you a better runner? Rebecca Cox

There is this misconception amongst runners who think any type of strength or muscle training will make them slower as they start to develop ‘bulky muscles’. Running is a strenuous sport, and very high impact on your joints, without the right type of training, who knows what types of long-term injuries you can cause to your body. If you are going to start running regularly, you are going to have to start some form of strength training too. Not only does this help with form, but it will also reduce the risk of injury. Muscle building and strength training doesn’t necessarily refer to hitting up the gym 5 days a week to push weights. There are many different types of training techniques you can take up in the comfort of your own home to build up your strength and muscles, whilst maintaining a bulk-less physique.

During Lunges and Lycra’s Summer Social event, we got the chance to meet and listen to a really inspiring talk from Ultra Marathon Runner Rebecca Cox about her incredible fitness journey. She’s the type of lady who runs 156 miles across the Sahara, 100 miles in 24 hours around a 400m track (if my calculations are right, that’s about 400 times around the track OMG) and then tells everyone in a room like it was a walk in the park LOL! She is also an amazing personal trainer specialising in training for endurance events and running, so ladies and gents, if you are crazy enough to start thinking about ultra-marathons, hit Rebecca up!

Rebecca has kindly written a guest post for us about her thoughts on muscle building, offering five essential things you need to know about – who better to get advice from eh?

Rebecca Cox boxing

Muscle reduces the risk of injury If your training involves a lot of high impact cardio (like running), you can be putting a lot of strain on your joints and skeleton and there’s an increased risk of stress fractures or more long-term conditions such as osteoporosis. It’s essential to have at least one strength training session each week to work alongside your running to ensure you are building up muscle to support and take pressure off your joints.

You don’t need to hit the gym Building muscle isn’t just about bench pressing and smashing out dead-lifts. In fact you don’t need a gym at all.  As a runner I tend to build my muscle functionally through running. Sprints, hill reps and using your body weight with squats, lunges and plyometric/explosive power exercises (lots of jumping) are all a great way to build muscle in a way that will help you get faster and stronger for running. You can do the same for swimming, cycling and any other sport you train for…work at intervals of high intensity, add incline and extra resistance and you’re all set - no gym membership required.

The more muscle you have, the more fat you burn Hour for hour you may burn off more calories during cardio based activity than weight training but building muscle affects your basic metabolic rate (BMR). This is the amount of calories you burn from simply being alive. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn all day every day. Even sat watching TV.  This makes the argument for muscle build for women even more compelling as the older we get, the more muscle we lose. It’s essential to proactively build muscle to prevent our BMR decreasing and avoid losing bone density.

There is no such thing as toning. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS TONING!!! I say this (often with rage) almost every single day. The idea of ‘toning’ is a complete fallacy. Your body can burn fat and it can build muscle. It cannot turn your fat into muscle. That’s just simple science.

You also cannot isolate where you burn fat from. Doing a load of sit-ups is NOT going to get you a visible six-pack if it’s still covered in fat. Triceps dips will NOT get rid of your bingo wings.  There is no such thing as a spot reduction of fat for your body.

It's all genetic I’m afraid.  If you tend to carry fat on your hips and thighs, doing isolated exercises on the thighs will not make them slimmer.

When you isolate your weight training and try and spot reduce fat you only really use one-muscle at a time and that won't really burn much fat, the best way to burn fat is to do exercises that use as many muscle groups as possible, increasing your muscle mass overall and increasing your metabolism.

You can isolate the muscles you build, but if you are looking to ‘tone’ you need to burn fat too.

You won’t get bulky The ladies I train often show initial concerns that they will get bulky if they focus too much on resistance training, but the truth is, it will NOT make you get big or bulky like a body builder. Those women train specifically for that (hours weight training in the gym each day combined with a diet designed to promote muscle growth).  Doing a couple of sessions a week focused on weight training will not suddenly turn you into Arnie - women don't produce enough of the human growth hormone to stimulate large, bulky muscle growth.