I started up a strength training program six weeks ago. The goal wasn’t necessarily to run faster though. My focus is to get stronger in general. Mostly for injury prevention. Even though I haven’t been injured in the past decade, I’m fully aware that doing the same thing over and over again won’t work forever. As I get older, I’m going to need to change things up in order to keep doing what I’ve come to love.

I should probably clarify that this “program” isn’t anything fancy. It’s really just a couple exercises and not some elaborately structured workout regime. Right now it’s mostly squats and lunges with some pushups added. I’ve found that the best way to maintain a new habit is to start small. Getting overly excited and jumping into the deep end is an awesome recipe for injury and/or a quick burnout. But starting at close to zero and very gradually increasing is a good way to build a solid habit. In the past 6 weeks, I’ve gone from doing 3 sets of 8 reps of squats and lunges with a 10 pound dumbbell to 3×15 at 20 pounds. So nothing dramatic here. Baby steps. The first couple weeks I was working this in on M/W/F, however I’ve backed this off to just Mondays and Wednesdays as I’ve added a long run on Saturdays. Seems a little silly to be lifting 12 hours before a long run.

One of the things that’s made this sustainable for me is that I’m not increasing my weekly exercise time. On the days that I’m doing my strength workouts, I’m cutting back on my early evening walks. I’m stilling getting in a couple miles through the neighborhoods, but not the hour or hour plus that I normally do. So it’s not an incremental time suck.

Even though I basically just started, I’m rather amazed at the impact it’s had on my running so far. I’m quantifiably 10% faster on virtually all of my runs. Part of this may be that I’m excited to be running a little faster so am pushing the pace a little bit. But my heart rate during runs is still +/- where it had been before so I don’t think that’s the case. I’m not surprised that the strength training has translated into faster runs, but I’m shocked that it’s this noticeable. I thought it would be one of those internal debates like I think I’m faster, but maybe I’m not. There’s no doubt in my mind that I’m faster now that I was 2 months ago. And it’s been forever since I’ve been able to notice my training leading to faster paces across the board.

So I’m happy. I’m also realistic enough to know that the biggest gains from a training intervention are right when you introduce it. So I could continue upping my strength training for the next year and not see another 10% improvement in my paces. And I’m fine with that. Again, I’m not doing this to get faster. I’m doing this to be a stronger, more robust runner. Getting faster is just an added benefit.