Weight up ahead of race season
Weight training 'can be massively beneficial to an athlete'. photograph: getty images
While weight training won’t replace running, it can complement your training and break up the monotony
It’s fair to say that no one looks at the Kenyan runners and thinks, I wonder what that guy is bench pressing? Yet, weights do have their role in running, and given that spring is kicking in, and a new season is creeping up on the mildly competitive recreational runner, it’s worth looking at as a way of keeping things interesting while improving on form and speed.
“Weight training, provided it is performed correctly and is relevant to the specific sport, can be massively beneficial to an athlete,” says Derek O’Sullivan of Well Fit gym in Skerries.
“Take a rugby player. Playing rugby constantly will improve their basic skills and game awareness, adding in a rugby-specific weight-training programme will enhance their game further. We have seen it in Gaelic games of late, how physical the game has become and the players are adapting their needs to it through weight training, this is creeping into soccer too. Depending on your sport, a training programme can be devised for an individual to enhance their performance.”
There is no reason why this cannot be done for running, whether it be sprint work or endurance work, programmes can be modified for seasonal work, weather allowances, says O’Sullivan.
By adding in a weight-training programme for an endurance athlete, the programme can be tailored to develop the endurance muscle fibres [slow twitch fibres]. This, in principle, will mean high repetitions and a reasonably low weight, depending on the individual, but provided muscle failure is achieved, gains will be made.
Nevertheless, runners need to choose their weights properly, and much will depend on the distance they’re training for. It’ll dictate not only the weights they train with, but the number of repetitions.
Should there be a different approach depending on whether you’re training for a five-miler rather than a marathon?
“It is a personal thing,” says O’Sullivan. “Timing is a huge element to the way in which one trains. A person training for a marathon will have to clock up more miles, so eating into their training time, whereas a five-miler may have a little more time to allow for more resistance training with weights.
“That said, both are largely seen as endurance runs and the rep ranges will be high. Both athletes, if possible, should still try to get some resistance training in and it doesn’t necessarily need to be hours in the gym – a time-efficient workout will suffice.”
With bad weather still a factor at this time of year, is it something that can replace running sessions?
“Technically it cannot replace running, it can complement your training, and it can break up the monotony of pounding the roads. Unfortunately, for a lot of endurance athletes, through genetics and somatotypes they just don’t like weight training, they are not built for it, just as body builders despise any cardio work.