For women that are in their initial weeks of being a runner, Austin-based running and triathlon coach Valerie Hunt says that often new clients report the types of nagging pain that are all too common in the running world: shin splints, knee pain and discomfort in the lower back.
“Most of this is because of weakness in the hip and core muscles,” Hunt says. Hunt is both a leading Pose instructor in the United States and a CrossFit Endurance coach. “When you increase your strength in the core muscle groups, you’ll improve your posture and be able to hold good form longer.”
“A lot of runners think that running itself is a form of strength training for the legs. It’s not. You have to work on your strength with specific exercises.” Adding in a few basic exercises on a weekly basis, says Hunt, will help remedy the situation. Form and posture improve as the core muscle groups shift the workload away from small muscles like the hip.
One pressing concern for some of her new clients is the worry that strength training equates with the gain of muscle bulk. Hunt says there’s really nothing to worry about.
“As an endurance athlete, the only way you’re going to build bulk is if you heavily overload the body with weights,” she says, adding that most of the strength work she prescribes for new runners is with bodyweight or light weights.
“When I first started I used my bodyweight or a five-pound body bar,” she says. “We just do basic core work. Lots of lunges, squats and planks.”
Hunt says that one of the values of adding this type of strength training component to the weekly regimen is that the new runner will enable more of a fat burning effect.
“Unless you’re running at an 8-minute per mile clip or faster, you’re not really burning that much in the way of calories,” Hunt says. “If you’re a Kenyan running sub-6-minute miles at a 100 miles per week, that’s a different story. But it’s just not the same if you’re running 10-minute pace.”
By adopting a strength program, Hunt says, you’ll increase the amount of lean tissue in the body which will enable more fat burning, and not just while you’re running. “You’ll be burning more fat all day long.”