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Injuries and Treatment

Ask the Coach: Mix it Up

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Incorporate strength work without sacrificing running performance

I was out for just over a year with stress fractures/shin splints. In that time, I took up lifting to maintain strength. Now that my injuries are healed (fingers crossed) and I’m starting to run regularly again, what’s the best way to incorporate squats, deadlifts and other lifts without sacrificing my ability to perform well in both activities?

—Becca Dzombak, Ann Arbor, MI

The benefits of strength training for runners are hotly contested, but the research is starting to support its efficacy for endurance. “The most compelling results are improved running economy leading to increased energy and oxygen utilization, injury prevention, body-fat loss and improved blood-sugar and hormone regulation,” says Nicole Christensen, strength coach and owner of CrossFit Roots in Boulder, Colorado.

Assuming that, indeed, your stress fracture is properly healed, begin both running and strength training conservatively. “The best starting point is with traditional strength-training exercises, such as back squats, deadlifts, presses, lunges, air squats and pullups,” says Christensen. “Set aside two to three days a week to work on strength, and perform three to seven sets of three to seven repetitions of each exercise. An example might be: five reps by five sets back squat, and seven reps by three sets pullups.” As for running, begin your normal build from no running to consistently running multiple times a week without concern for your pace. Follow a plan and keep track of how your body feels after each run and strength-training session. With proper form and enough rest, you should be able to make steady gains in both your run fitness and your strength.

More: strength training tips and exercises that will make you a stronger trail runner.

This article originally appeared in our October 2014 issue.