Strength and conditioning habits of competitive distance runners

Targeted strength and conditioning (S&C) programmes can potentially improve performance and reduce injury risk factors in competitive runners. However, S&C practices of distance runners are unknown. This study aimed to explore S&C practices of competitive middle- and long-distance runners and examined whether reported frequency of injuries were influenced by training behaviours. 1883 distance runners (≥ 15 years old) completed an online survey. All runners who raced competitively were included in data analysis (n=667). Distance runners mainly engaged with S&C activities to lower risk of injury (63.1%), and improve performance (53.8%). The most common activities utilized were stretching (86.2%) and core stability exercises (70.2%). Resistance training (RT) and plyometric training (PT) were used by 62.5% and 35.1% of runners respectively. Junior (under-20) runners include PT, running drills and circuit training more so than masters runners. Significantly more international standard runner’s engaged in RT, PT and fundamental movement skills training compared to competitive club runners. Middle-distance (800 m-3000 m) specialists were more likely to include RT, PT, running drills, circuit training and barefoot exercises in their programme than longer-distance runners. Injury frequency was associated with typical weekly running volume and run frequency. S&C did not appear to confer a protection against the number of injuries runners experienced. Practitioners working with distance runners should critically evaluate the current S&C practices of their athletes, to ensure that activities prescribed have a sound evidence-based rationale.