We all know that strength training is important, however, it can be tough to fit it in with the rest of your running and cross training schedule. Strength training helps prevent injury and also will help keep you active for years to come. For example, check out this 95-year-old who recently set a 200 meter world record for his age group!
When you regularly strength train, you’re loading your muscles and tendons, which helps build muscle and bone strength, as well as increase bone density. This is crucial as you age, and obviously important for runners, who are placing 1.5 to 3x their bodyweight on their legs with each run, according to this Harvard study on running biomechanics. As you can see, it is important to make time in your weekly routine for weightlifting!
Here are 7 tips to help runners with strength training and be more efficient and effective.
If you know you’ll have a tough time motivating yourself to lift after runs, have dumbbells ready right in your living room. Then you really have no excuse. After a run, you can do a quick routine or workout to a YouTube video (try Fitness Blender). You can find affordable dumbbells at places like Target or FiveBelow.
Strength Train at Least 2x per Week
It can be hard to balance running and strength training, especially if you’re training for a long distance race, but try to get in at least 2 sessions per week. This will not only help with injury prevention, but also increase your strength which will translate to better running. Even if you can only do a quick 10 minute workout after a run, it’s better than nothing. Try to do 3 sets of exercises like squats, lunges, push-ups, deadlifts and core work. Here’s one of my workouts, which is a 10 minute lower body routine.
Have you been running on the treadmill a lot this winter? A good way to include strength in your runs is by utilizing the treadmill. If you get bored easily, this is a great way to break things up. Run a mile, then do 2 exercises (like 10 kettlebell swings and 10 sumo squats), run another mile, do 2 other exercises (10 push ups and 10 walking lunges), run another mile, etc. Also, by running after doing these leg exercises, you’ll be practicing running on fatigued legs, which will help you with your finish line kick in races.
Lift After Tough Workouts
You might be tempted to call it a day after a grueling track workout, but this is the perfect time to do a lifting routine. Yes, your legs will be tired, but by lifting after a hard workout, you’ll give your muscles more time to recover. Make sure your “easy” days are truly easy. Save the lifting routines for your hard days so on easy days you’re giving your muscles a break.
Focus on Your Glutes
Many runners (myself included) have weak glutes and hamstrings. Squats aren’t the be all end all of glute exercises. While they should be included in your routine and obviously are a great strength builder, exercises like hip raises and deadlifts really target your back side. With hip raises, lie on your back and place a weighted plate or barbell on your hips. Lift your hips up as high as you can, squeeze your glutes and pause for two seconds, then lower and repeat. You should feel the burn in your glutes and hamstrings. Also add in some band walks to your routine to hit the glute medius (side of your glute muscles). Here’s a post I wrote about the glute medius and exercises that target that specifically.
Work the Major Muscle Groups
To get more bang for your buck, do exercises that work major muscle groups like legs and back. Bicep curls and dips are great but by doing more compound exercises you’ll gain strength in less time, and get a total body workout. Good upper body exercises include pull-ups, bench presses, overhead presses, cable rows, dumbbell rows, and more. Furthermore, you’ll still be working your smaller muscles (like biceps, triceps and shoulders) with these exercises.
Now that you’ll be lifting and running regularly, make sure to make stretching part of your routine. Whether if it’s after a run or lifting session, dedicate 10 minute to stretch and cool down. Your muscles will thank you.
Try adding in strength training two times a week and see how it helps your running. You’ll feel stronger, faster and keep those pesky running injuries away!