A few weeks ago, I mentioned a class I was starting to take with my CrossFit box. It’s entirely focused on Olympic weightlifting, breaking down the movements, practicing them, and getting the form right. When I would take a regular CF class and these movements were tossed into the workout, I’d perform them sub par, never with power and even with coaching before and during, I didn’t quite “get it”.
Granted, I still don’t “get it” but this is a step in the right direction and practice I really need. Plus, I discovered I really enjoy it! At least I know if I ever can’t run again, I found something I can train towards for competition still. Some people work out for the fitness benefits, which is awesome, but for me the motivation lies in competition with myself and against others. Keeping myself healthy and wanting to look good naked are just other positive byproducts of a lifestyle I like to strive for. [Wow, that might be the cockiest thing I’ve ever written and I feel a little gross. I’ve got my sassy pants on, apparently.]
So after my first class, I immediately started to worry.
How is this going to affect my running?
Am I going to get injured?
Can somebody actively train for a race and lift heavy, too?
To me, these are all valid questions to somebody who has absolutely zero experience in strength training. Sure, I taught some “weights” related classes at the gym, but I hardly consider those to be solid weight training as compared to what I’ve been doing lately. If you’re familiar with training for a race, you’re probably well aware that cross training and strength training are key components to remaining injury free, but did you know it’s so much more than that?
The interesting thing I discovered as soon as I started my research is that Olympic weightlifting is actually encouraged for runners, especially sprinters.
As this article from Competitor.com explains, lifting heavier teaches us to move with greater skill because you’re forced to do it. You’re required to move with posture, load, and torque, all of which emphasizes the skill behind the movement. Without lifting heavy, this biomechanical feedback is missed out on, therefore we do not challenge and refine these skills.
Yeah okay, this article just tells me I should lift heavy and pushes CrossFit on me. No thanks.
I get it. CrossFit gets a pretty bad rep. Believe me, there are places that give me an uneasy feeling due to safety concerns of too much, too fast, and not a solid enough emphasis on moving well. The right place with the right coaches won’t do that, but another topic, another day. That article isn’t the only one pointing out the benefits of lifting heavy for runners.
Maybe you’ve heard of some guy named Alberto Salazar? His athletes also follow a strength training regimen of heavy weights, fewer reps, with a focus on form. And it isn’t just random assortments of exercises, they all have a running specific purpose.
According to an article on Salazar’s athletes, Olympic lifting trains the body to maintain upright form when you’re fatigued. When you can no longer hold yourself up with good form, the strength developed from these movements can help keep everything together… which sounds pretty great when we’re talking about injury prevention, doesn’t it?
For good measure (because I like odd numbers), here’s another article discussing lifting heavy for runners. It doesn’t necessarily address Olympic weightlifting, however it does explain in pretty basic terms how heavy strength training translates to faster paces and increased endurance.
But you didn’t provide any alternative opinions, so I’m not well informed.
I was never good at writing opinion pieces for school; I hate persuasive pieces and I love to play Devil’s Advocate. In fact, I’d go as far as saying 90% of arguments I’ve had with my father are because I had to disagree just so both sides were shown. Of course, writing a blog isn’t too different!
Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately!), I’m coming up with nothing to share on the flip side of this argument. I spent a good 45 minutes scouring the internet with various combinations like “weightlifting is bad for runners”, “lifting light weights for running”, “olympic weightlifting harmful runners”, etc. and honestly, I was hard pressed to find anything with a valid differing opinion. I did however find some colorful commentary of the sarcastic variety listing reasons why women should not lift weights (ew, muscles!)
It’s not a secret I haven’t raced in almost two years. The first time I truly toe the starting line with the purpose of racing will be at the end of May for the Buffalo Half Marathon. This is the first time I’ll have trained with this amount of strength training and I’ll be honest, I have no idea how it will go. I’m nervous because my running approach has been largely of the “less is more” variety, but I found that to be necessary based on my history.
Do I know for sure that weightlifting and CrossFit has made me faster?
Do I know for sure that weightlifting and CrossFit has made me less injury prone?
Look at how many times I tried to come back prior to starting CrossFit in October. It was far too many to count, all of which left me sidelined and whining. Even when I started CrossFit in October, before it was part of my regular schedule, I was feeling
negative running effects flaring tendonitis again. I haven’t experienced that in five months, but the only thing I’ve done differently is increase my mileage while continuing with the weights. If you’ve been following me throughout my injuries, I think that statement kind of says it all.
We’ll put my training to the test in May.
Coming up soon – How the heck can you fit all of this into your running schedule, but have a normal work, social, and “exercise” life?