Improving My Upper-Body Strength Is Helping Me Train Smarter For Races

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I won't admit how many races I've run without proper training. No, I don't mean that I'd completely forego running prior to the race and just show up race morning to see what happens. (OK, this happened once — and no, it wasn't pretty.) What I really mean is completing the proper strength training and conditioning required for an athlete to truly show up and knock it out of the park come race time. I always just figured what I did was "good enough."

Up until recently, I vastly ignored strength training. All logic pointed toward adding in leg days, squeezing in arm days, and tacking on core sessions to reap the benefits of strength training. But a lack of time and energy to try something new and undoubtedly hard led me astray. Although simply running got me quite far with my sport, I was never quite as strong as I knew I could be. Needless to say that's about when I decided to actually challenge myself and see what incorporating strength training into my upcoming marathon training plan could do.

It's been about three months since I started regularly incorporating bodyweight and lightweight strength training into my weekly routine, and the results are undeniable. Sure, I'm a bit more toned and am admittedly more excited than ever to don a sports bra like the UA Breathelux Marble Sports Bra ($65) for my ab workouts (no shame in showing off progress!), but what's really blown me away is the impact my weekly upper-body workouts have had.

Having a strong upper body has given me more energy during my runs and allowed me to power through some of the toughest workouts I've attempted. Plus, I'm a more efficient runner. My strong arms and abs support my posture better while I run, meaning I'm able to utilize my own energy and power better — aka, I'm faster and last longer. Truth be told, I never realized how exhausted my body got by simply having to do the extra work that my upper body is now strong enough to handle.

Beyond a noticeable difference in endurance, trying — and enjoying — something new has done wonders for my mental stamina. Running is just as much a battle of the mind as it is a battle of the body. Letting my guard down and allowing myself to start over with a side of fitness that was almost entirely new to me, humbled me and gave me a healthier outlook on workouts in general.

Not only am I now training stronger, but I'm training infinitely smarter. And that is what's truly good enough.