I’ve been running for over half my life. That means two things. One: I’ve been logging miles for over 16 years. Two: I’m getting old.
In my early, naïve days, I did a lot of strength training. It wasn’t the right kind of strength training for running, but it was strength training nonetheless. The question is, did the improved strength affect my running mechanics? The answer is “yes” and “no.”
Hold the phone. “Yes” and “no”? How could it be both?
My running mechanics at the time were… not great. I wasn’t altogether inefficient, but I wasn’t exactly a Kenyan either. The thing about good running form is that it doesn’t just happen by being stronger. Good running mechanics comes from intuitively adapting to what’s more efficient as you become a more experienced runner as well as actively working to correct inefficiencies. That’s how I became faster over a long and arduous period of time.
On the other hand, what little efficiency I did have I was able to maintain for a longer duration thanks to the increased muscle strength.
So there you have it. “Yes” and “no.”
Strength training won’t affect your triathlon running mechanics in terms of transforming bad form into good form. You need smart run training and a healthy balance of run drills for that to happen. What strength training will do, however, is give you the strength to uphold what efficiency in running mechanics you already have as fatigue occurs over long distances of running.
This is a large reason the TriDot Training System advocates a fast before far strategy. It’s no good slogging through miles if your run mechanics easily diminish due to a muscularly weak body. Power speed training and strength training give you the development needed to maintain proper mechanics as endurance is pushed to the limit. And, as I’ve said, you gain proper mechanics by running smart (interval training with proper amounts of rest) and with solid drills (A-skips, B-skips, high knees, etc.).
But what if running is your background? You might be thinking, I’ve got this whole running thing down already. My running mechanics are decent. I just need to focus on swimming and cycling.
That may be true to an extent. And an intelligent balance of the disciplines in triathlon training is key. However, consider this…
At some point, everyone’s running form breaks down once fatigue outweighs strength. Even the most elite runners lose their near-perfect mechanics when up against the dreaded “wall.”
When it comes to the triathlon, you’ve already swam and biked before the run. You’ve likely already experienced some pretty heavy fatigue. Doesn’t it make sense to have the muscular strength to run tall and strong even after pumping tremendous amounts of blood and sucking in huge volumes of oxygen?
Strength training benefits the slowtwitch triathlete by allowing him or her to keep those precious, efficient run mechanics for the longest possible time when racing.
So why not do a few lunges or hold the plank position now and then? Go ahead. Treat yourself.
Strength training won’t give you the ideal running mechanics but it will help you sustain efficient running form as distance and duration increase.
TALK WITH TRIDOT:
What strength exercises do you feel have helped you maintain good running mechanics?
JARED MILAM is a professional triathlete, TriDot coach, and member of the Tri4Him Pro Team. He has 16 years of competitive running experience and 11 years of competitive triathlon experience with a half Iron PR of 3:59 and a full Iron PR of 8:30. Coaching under the TriDot system since 2011, Jared loves working with aspiring triathletes of all ages and performance levels.