Runners aren’t typically known for their massive shoulders or overly-developed glutes—they tend to be lean, and even wiry—a physique that allows them to be light on their feet. But just because bulging biceps aren’t a requirement for crossing the finish line, that doesn’t mean runners should eschew strength training altogether.
“There are a thousand different workouts for runners, all based on the principle of overload,” says Dr. Jamey Plunk, an endurance athlete and professor of exercise and sport science at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. “If you can overload a muscle beyond what it’s accustomed to, it will get better.”
And in Plunk’s opinion, “better” should mean injury-resistant. “Most runners experience repetitive-use injuries. If you get plantar fasciitis, you’re out for a year. It might start as an annoyance, but you ignore the pain until you literally can’t run anymore—the injury has gone too far,” he says. Clearly, the ideal strength-training routine should be one that overloads the muscles in a way that prevents such repetitive-use injuries.
The only problem? Most runners don’t want to spend all their time in the gym—they want to run. Which is why Plunk points to a solution that offers the best of both worlds: Trail running.