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Strength Training: Strong is the New Skinny

Photo by James Farrell


Consider this a PSA: No matter how much weight you lift, you will never look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Ever.

An underlying fear of developing bulky “man muscles” causes many women runners to steer clear of the weight room. Or, if they do start lifting, they’ll stick to 2-pound dumbbells, nervous to pick up anything heavier. We’re here to set the record straight: Our much lower testosterone levels mean that women cannot build the same kinds of guns as guys.

The benefits you will reap? A leaner, stronger, faster body. Studies show that lifting substantial weight just twice a week will lower your body fat by an amazing three percent. Also, balancing your running with resistance training that targets complementary muscles will help you prevent injury and become more resilient to the stresses of training.

Performing many repetitions of an exercise with a lighter weight is not optimal for runners. Instead, lift heavier weights for fewer repetitions to recruit more muscle fibers, which will improve both power and endurance. The following exercises, when performed two times per week, can correct muscle imbalances, prevent injury and help you feel stronger with every step.

Aim for 1 to 3 sets of 4 to 8 reps (resting for as long as you need between each set to encourage good form).

Proceed with Caution

Lifting heavy weights can be hazardous if not done correctly.

-If you are new to lifting, have a trained professional evaluate your form.

-Warm up first with 10 to 15 minutes of light cardio (e.g., elliptical machine, walking, stationary bike).

-Cool down after your strength workout with 10 minutes of light stretching.

-Don’t do too much, too soon! Spend four weeks using the same weight with proper form before trying to increase the weight or repetitions.

-If you are training for a big race, stop strength training two weeks before race day and switch your focus to recovery and stretching.

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