Guest Post: Why Female Runners Should Hit the Gym
Editor’s Note: This post is written by guest contributor, Jane Grates, and has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Minneapolis Running.
When we talk about runners and what their training entails, most of us think of the obvious first: running. Lots and lots of running. Depending on what type of runner you are, you may be logging lots of short and explosive sprints, lots of long distance and easy-paced runs, or some combination of two. To be a better runner — whether you define “better” as faster, fitter, stronger, or less injury-prone — it behooves you to run as much as you can, as much as your body will allow.
…or so the thinking goes.
The fact of the matter is that while running will obviously make runners “better,” runners of all shapes, speeds, and sizes, regardless of the type of runner they are, the distance they cover, will stand to benefit from weekly visits to the gym.
Most people don’t associate lifting with runners, and it’s mostly due to preconceived notions. When we think about powerlifters, or even people who lift regularly, we tend to conceive images of people who are just absolutely ripped, with huge and bulging musculature everywhere throughout their body. “All that muscle would slow down a runner!” we think to ourselves. The strongest runners are the ones who are as lean as possible.
Particularly if you’re a female runner, you will especially stand to benefit from going to the gym regularly. Below, I’ll describe in more detail additional reasons as to why female runners, regardless of the distance they run, should hit the gym regularly.
Why Female Runners Should Hit the Gym
To correct muscle imbalances.
Particularly if you’re a long distance runner, it’s very likely that you’ve developed some muscular imbalances from logging lots of high mileage. Runners tend to move in one plane of motion most often, and as a result, some muscles become very, very strong while others remain pretty weak and underutilized. As a result, these imbalances can lead to a cascade of issues, ranging from running form deficits to full-blown injuries. Getting in the gym weekly can help to bring the underused muscles up to speed, so to speak. Most often, runners have very strong quad muscles but are left with weak or excessively tight hamstrings, glutes, core, or hip flexors.
To provide an additional full-body workout that’s not running.
If given the opportunity, most runners would be “just runners”; that is, all they’d prefer to do is run. The fact of the matter is that most runners actually need to take more time off each month to allow their bodies to reap the benefits of their training cycles; non-running activities that still confer benefits to runners are called cross-training. Lifting is an important cross-training activity for runners because it gives them an opportunity to still get in a solid, full-body workout but in the absence of subjecting their bodies to the incessant pounding that running necessitates. In fact, if done right, an effective lifting program can better target all the major and minor muscle groups than running, which will result in more well-balanced and overall stronger cardiovascular, muscular, and skeletal systems.
To help protect against running-related injuries.
Even though running isn’t a contact sport in the way that, say, football or rugby are, running is nonetheless still a sport that carries with it considerable risk. If you talk to any runner, chances are high that he/she has been injured or otherwise sidelined from running at least once during his/her running tenure. Most running injuries are overuse-related in nature, but there are always some circumstances that result in broken bones, stress fractures, and torn muscles or ligaments. A regular lifting program can help protect against running-related injuries insomuch that regular lifting will not only give runners an opportunity to have a break from the incessant pounding but also because it can strengthen runners’ bodies all over, rectifying any imbalances that may exist. Lifting isn’t necessarily a panacea from injury, but it can definitely have a preventive effect.
Related: Injury Prevention Tips for Runners
To help protect bone health and integrity.
One of the most important reasons as to why female runners ought to get in the gym is due to lifting’s role in protecting bone health and integrity. Women are disproportionately affected by bone density and bone loss issues as they age, compared to men. That said, participating in a lifting program each week — even for as few as 30 minutes, twice a week — can help to strengthen aging skeletal systems. Working with a knowledgeable medical practitioner or qualified personal trainer can be especially important for women to do as they age so they know exactly what safeguards they should take, related to their bone health, and what/how they can participate in a lifting program that’ll ensure they don’t needlessly jeopardize themselves or their well-being.
To bask in the camaraderie of other women who lift heavy sh-t and do hard things.
Finally, one of the most compelling reasons for women runners to get to the gym each week relates to the camaraderie aspect. Runners share in a rich community with other runners, folks with whom they may have nothing else in common except their shared love of the sport, and this friendship can be instrumental to their growth and progress in the sport (as well as personally or professionally). Likewise, it would behoove women to get to the gym a couple times a week to lift heavy because it’d allow them to meet other like-minded individuals, particularly other women, who participate in the same or similar activities and who “get it.” It’s unbelievable, but there are still so many people in the world who are threatened by strong women — physically or otherwise — and so finding other people who welcome other strong-ass women can be especially helpful. Having lifting buddies and partners can be as important as having running buddies or partners, after all. The power of a community cannot be denied.
These are just a handful of the reasons why female runners need to get in the gym each week. Not only will doing so help them to become the best runners that they can be, but it can also help them to become the strongest and healthiest versions of themselves that they can be, too.
About the Author:
Jane Grates is a fitness geek and a sports fan. Performing at the sweet spot between minimalism and purpose to develop visual solutions that inform and persuade. She also writes reviews and recommendations on Runnerclick, ThatSweetGift, NicerShoes, and GearWeAre.