I came across an article in Runners World and thought it was really interesting. As a runner myself, I know how easy it is to fall into the trap of only running. When you're working and juggling life, it's hard enough to find time to fit in your runs, let alone find time to get in cross training and strength training. On top of that, you need to manage your strength workouts to ensure you aren't overdoing it and setting yourself up for crummy runs. While it's hard, it's really important to get in the strength training work. Not only does it help us stay injury free and burn more calories, according to the study in this article, it makes us FASTER!!
In the study they took two groups of runners who were capable of a 21 minute 5k. Over a 6 week period one group did no strength work and just continued with their normal running routine. The other group continued with their running routine but added in 2 days of strength work which consisted of only 4 exercises. Remember this...2 days of strength, 4 exercises only. That's not a lot. After the 6 week period, the runners who did no strength work ran a similar 5k time while the runners who participated in strength work shaved 45 seconds off their time. 45 seconds!! That's a huge PR in the 5k distance.
Now the interesting part of the study...Over the next 6 weeks the group performing strength work stopped and returned to only running. After this 6 week period, their 5k times basically returned to where they were at the beginning of the 12 weeks.
So, it looks like if we want to improve our 5k times we need to do more than only run. Do you have a 5k coming up? If so, get in the strength work and see how it helps you. Here's a link to the article. It lists the specific exercises they had the runners perform. I know I'm definitely going to give it a try!!