Running is a full-body activity, so it makes sense to strengthen the entire body and not just one muscle group. If your primary goal is to focus on running all year long or even for a particular part of the year, you can become a more efficient runner and reduce your chances of injury by adding some strength training to your program. A runner can hold off muscle fatigue and optimize their running form by doing these exercises two or three times a week.
I’m sure most runners are tired of hearing how important it is to strengthen their core muscles but what they don’t realize is that these sets of muscles are not getting truly strengthened while you run. Just as important as your long runs and speed drills are, it’s important to strengthen your abs and lower back muscles.
There are so many different exercises to strengthen your core. Bicycles, planks, crunches, reverse crunches, they are all effective. You don’t need to go overboard with how much you do but simply do some of these exercises once or twice a week.
Squats are an excellent exercise for runners because they’ll help strengthen your hips, glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Here’s how to do a squat properly.
Your feet should be should width apart and angled out slightly. Your knees and hips should be slightly flexed, while the spine and neck are held in a neutral position. Lower the body until the upper legs are parallel to the ground. Your weight should be on the heels of the feet and your eyes forward throughout the movement. Be careful that your knees do not come too far beyond the front of your toes.
Walking lunges are a great way to strengthen the muscles you’ll need when running. As you run faster more you’ll rely on your glutes, hamstrings, and hip flexors which are the muscles that lunges focus on. Lunges are also practical because you can do them anywhere and modify them to suit your needs. Here’s how to do a lunge properly.
With your feet shoulder width apart, start tall with your hands on your hips. Take a step forward while bending the knees and lowering your hips until your back knee touches the ground. Stand up by pushing off the front leg and then swing your back leg forward by taking another step until your back knee touches the ground. Repeat.
Your upper body plays a huge role in endurance performance so avoid neglecting it when it comes to strength training. Your upper body actually helps prevent excess rotation during the running motion. Your arms have a ‘rhythmic’ motion with your lower body when running and having a strong upper body helps prevent or reduce wasted movement. Here are some basic movements you can try for your upper body.
Push-ups are key for building strength and endurance not just in the upper body but also your core. You can target your chest, triceps, core and shoulders and improve your spinal stability at the same time. Here’s how to perform a push-up exercise.
Place both feet on the ground and extend your body out into a straight line. Your hand placement can vary depending on what you want to work more of, your chest or triceps. Go wider with your hands if you want to focus more on the chest and narrow with the hands if you want to focus on the triceps. You can also mix it up by doing both. If you do it this way, start with the hardest position first which is with your hands narrow and then finish off to go wide.
Pull-ups or chin-ups are a great exercise to counterbalance with our legs especially is you have a lots of hills or technical terrain to run on. This exercise provides us with much needed strength without gaining a large amount of muscle mass which will in turn help you get faster. You want to stay as light as possible especially if you are doing long distance but have enough strength and power to aid with your speed. Follow these steps to do a proper chin-up/pull-up.
Grasp a bar with your palms facing you, roughly shoulder-width apart. Keep your arms fully straightened and your abs tight. Inhale as you draw the elbows down and to the back, keeping a straight body as you rise. Clear the branch with your chin before you slowly lower yourself to your starting position, exhaling as you go; that’s one repetition. Do not begin a second repetition until your upper arms are straight, with fully retracted shoulder blades.
My goals will also depict my workouts. If I’m training for long distance, I still do weight training but I perform different exercises with less weight. If I’m training for shorter distances and running on technical trails, I focus more on power and use a little more weight by still trying to keep light with my body weight. Many runners avoid upper body weight training like the plague thinking that it will slow them down. If you’re not training correctly this can be true but it’s important to understand the reasoning behind what type of training you do. Upper body strength training helps us run with better form, run more efficiently, reduce fatigue and help prevent injuries.
Try to incorporate some strength training twice a week and you will start to notice a difference with your running.
Eat Clean & Live Green!
Your Compassionate Coach,