Running is a great form of cardiovascular exercise, because you can do it anywhere. It's a tremendous way to improve your heart health, lower blood pressure, and burn some extra calories among its many other benefits. However, running does have some downfalls IF all you do is run.
So... how do maximize the benefits of running while avoiding some of its potential negative effects? Simple, you incorporate a weight training routine. Not just any weight training routine, but a specific routine that will go hand and hand with your running.
Here are some benefits an endurance athlete reaps when adding weight training...
1) Improved running efficiency
2) Lowered risk of injury
3) Lowered risk of overtraining
4) Improved flexibility and ROM (range of motion)
When you run, you are repeating the same motion over and over again. This means that you are working the same muscle groups over and over again creating a muscular imbalance and setting up an ideal environment for injury. By working the muscles that are neglected during your runs, in addition to the muscles that are used while you run, you will wind up with a much stronger foundation, leading to faster times and a lowered risk for injury.
Most people have heard of cross-training, and in its simplest form here is how it works. The more variety someone has in their routine the better their overall results will be. There are definitely some exceptions, but weight training for runners is not one of these exceptions. Weight training improves strength, helps to stabilize your joints, strengthens important core muscles, and improves flexibility (although general misconceptions will lead you to believe the opposite). Runners are often found with weak and tight muscles, unstable joints, and core/lower back problems all of which can be corrected or even better yet prevented through weight training.
To finish off, I would like to clear up one other major misconception that many runners tend to have...
Weight training will not "add bulk" to you frame and slow you down. The only single way that anyone can gain weight or "bulk" is by consuming more calories than they are burning. Although the exact number of calories will vary, it is safe to say that an avid runner is burning A LOT of calories on a weekly basis. In addition to the massive caloric expenditure from running, weight lifting is going to burn even more calories while creating an increased metabolism, which is ideal for burning body fat while at rest. With this said, I can guarantee you one thing... if you're running a slower time becuase you're heavier, then it's because of additional body fat. I promise you it is NOT because of muscle.
Please don't hesitate to contact me or post questions here.