Strength Training on Tired Legs
Updated: Feb 23
If you are increasing your mileage, adding hills, increasing intervals, extending your long runs, or going back-to-back with your long runs, the first training variable to go is always strength. I understand, the same goes for me! here are some tips to maintain your strength in consideration of tired legs.
Do I Need to Maintain Strength?
Unfortunately, yes you do. As you can see from the image below, a solid 25 weeks of strength training can be largely undone in about 8 weeks of time off. Boo! However, there are some simple strategies you can employ to get the most from your strength without trashing your legs.
Prime Time for Strength
Following a key event is the perfect time to distract yourself with a solid strength block. This allows you to rest your brain from the past few months of constantly looking ahead to your goal event as we all know this can be all-consuming and mentally taxing. Your running motivation may be waning so now is the time to devote some energy to best preparing and bullet-proofing your body for the next challenge by investing in your future. During this phase you can train heavy slow strength 2-3 times each week and build that strength base.
Targeting Specific Muscles
Ultimately, you know your body better than anyone. If you notice that you experience fatigue, cramping, discomfort regularly in the same muscle or muscle group, then strengthen that muscle to better prepare it for your demands. For me, it is my hammies that cry out late in events, threaten to cramp on me, and often follow through with their threats! Lucky I carry pickle juice. However, instead of getting frustrated at an annoying muscle that is not up to the task, focus on conditioning that over-worked and under-appreciated team member. I recommend getting an assessment to measure your strength, length, and function.
Strength Training and Recovery
As you will recall from the previous post on 'how to structure your strength around your running training', rest is essential for growth and adaptation. Without rest, you are staring injury in the face and will certainly be the one to blink first. Rest allows you to get the most from your strength training as well as your running. In the above post I touch on intervals, long runs, and the weekly plan. Check it out for clarification.
Strength Training Between Events
There are some periods in the calendar that are particularly full with events. If you were to head into each of these events with a three-week taper and 1-2 week break from strength training, then enjoy a recovery period, you would never run, let alone lift weights! To work around this, follow this simple approach to your strength training:
Drop 1 set
Drop 2 reps from each set
That's it! By performing 2 sets instead of 3 and knocking 2 reps off the end of each set you will at the very least maintain your strength, and most likely continue to improve your strength. You will feel a little disappointed when you finish your workout at the lack of concrete in your quads, but when you can continue to perform your running training with impunity, you will thank me for it.
By increasing your tissue tolerance, you are protecting against risk of injury. Strength is not likely to change running mechanics but instead serves to raise the the tissue capacity ceiling. This allows you to run at a lower % of your total capacity for longer. Check out the full range of strength training programs for runners right here. Please get in touch with any questions.