Why long distance runners need strength training

With runners moving into high-gear training for the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon, many may be beginning to feel sorry that they simply haven’t invested enough time in the months running up to the event on 15 April. But while many will have focused on clocking miles on the road, experts believe that building muscle strength may equally impact performance positively.

“Increased strength improves mechanical efficiency and coordination,” says Stuart McDade of Stuart McDade Biokineticists. Strength training allows the body to “practice” recruiting muscle fibres to produce force in order to move. The more “practice” that occurs, the more the body will adapt and therefore become better/quicker at producing the necessary force, he explains. ”Think of a novice runner as having a dial-up connection to his quadriceps or glutes, and an elite runner having a fibre-like connection,” explains Stuart.

Strength training also improves running economy by reducing neuromuscular stress, improving mechanical efficiency, and reducing the oxygen demand at submaximal running speeds:

  • With repetition of efficient stimulation of muscles, the time, energy and oxygen required to produce force decreases. “Basically, the muscles become much more competent and use less resources in doing their work,” says Stuart.
  • Because the muscles do not have to go through as much strain in order to produce movement/force, we also do not have to gasp for air to try and absorb as much oxygen. “Our cardiovascular, respiratory and muscular-skeletal system start to pass messages and interact with each more easily, and with less effort, at a submaximal speed,” says Stuart.
  • An athlete’s lower body muscles become “stronger”. “This would translate into the runner being able to produce the amount of force necessary to propel their body forward with less demand placed on their muscles to do so. Again, an example of the body adapting to what is required of it.”

BODYTEC® offers both amateur and professional athletes the opportunity to build strength for endurance events with 20 minutes of training a week.The BODYTEC® EMS device is able to stimulate multiple muscle groups simultaneously, allowing for a repeated activation of the whole body. Under the guidance of a personal trainer, specific muscle groups can be individually targeted according to your goals and needs.

One of the many benefits of EMS training is that the muscle contractions are of higher quality and more intense than a voluntary exertion can do alone. Compared to conventional weight training, EMS training activates deeper muscle groups, which leads to better balance amongst the muscles in the body and increased core stability. Research done on the benefits of EMS training on professional sports people showed an increase of 30% in strength performance and a 19% speed increase*. 

“We are very excited to have some top running athletes as clients,” says BODYTEC® Head of Marketing, Sandra Leyck. These include Morgan Ross, a BODYTEC Dainfern client, who is training for the Comrades Marathon and Two Oceans. Because the Comrades Marathon is an up run this year, Morgan felt she needed to incorporate more strength and core training into her training programme. “I felt like running alone wasn’t enough, and since I’m so busy, BODYTEC® offered the perfect solution: 20 minutes, once a week! I’ve already doubled the intensity on my abs and arms in training to help me prepare,” she says, confirming she is happy to report she is going into the races injury free for the first time, after suffering from sciatic nerve damage and a glute injury all season. 

Tanya Posthumus-Fox, BODYTEC Century City client and ambassador and a long distance runner, is also a committed client. “BODYTEC® has played a huge role in the activation of my weaker muscles and imbalances,” says Tanya who featured on the February 2017 cover of Runner’s World Magazine. Watch the video below in which she talks about how BODYTEC has helped her build up strength to improve her running.

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* Andre Filipovic and Dr Heinz Kleinoeder (2013)

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