Trail running offers an exhilarating experience, demanding endurance, agility, and strength. Unfortunately, misconceptions surrounding strength training have left many trail runners hesitant to embrace it in their routines. Today, we aim to debunk five common strength training myths and uncover the truth behind them:
Myth 1: Lifting weights will bulk you up and hinder performance.
Truth: Contrary to popular belief, strength training can be a game-changer for trail runners. While excessive muscle gain is unlikely, building and maintaining some muscle can significantly benefit your performance. Renowned trail runners like Sally McRae, Jeff Browning, Hannah Allgood, and Dylan Bowman credit their success and longevity to strength training. During the off-season, dedicating a portion of your training time to strength exercises can help you excel in upcoming races, from half marathons to 100-mile events.
Myth 2: Running alone is enough to improve speed and endurance.
Truth: While running is the backbone of trail running training, solely focusing on it overlooks the advantages of cross-training and strength workouts. Studies reveal that integrating strength training helps prevent injuries and enhances efficiency on varied terrains. By targeting specific running movements through functional strength exercises and plyometrics, you can elevate your overall running economy and perform better on technical trails.
Myth 3: You must lift weights frequently to see benefits.
Truth: The misconception that frequent strength training is necessary for gains is not entirely accurate. Even incorporating just one or two sessions per week can yield positive results. For instance, trail runner Hannah Allgood maintains her strength by incorporating two sessions per week during the season, supplementing her hard workout and long run days. During the off-season, increasing the frequency of strength training can lead to more gains without sacrificing overall fitness.
Myth 4: Strength training leads to excessive soreness and hampers performance.
Truth: It’s normal to experience some soreness when starting strength training. However, with consistency and proper recovery, this discomfort diminishes as your body adapts. Avoid scheduling strength sessions right before intense workouts or long runs to prevent additional fatigue. A proper warm-up, a steady dose of strength work, and adequate recovery between sessions can minimize soreness and reduce the risk of injury.
Myth 5: Endurance athletes should avoid heavy lifting or only focus on it.
Truth: Endurance athletes, including trail runners, can benefit from lifting heavier weights. Lifting at a challenging effort level (around 7 or 8 out of 10) can lead to substantial strength gains without excessive bulkiness. Remember that a well-rounded strength program can also include bodyweight and band exercises, which are effective, especially for beginners.
Incorporating a balanced strength training routine into your trail running regimen can enhance your performance, improve your trail running experience, and reduce the risk of injuries. Embrace the truth behind these myths and unlock your true potential as a trail runner.