If you’re a runner who wants to be faster, or just wants to be able to run farther without injury, just running more miles isn’t going to get you the best results. In fact, in some cases adding more running to your training load is a great way to put you on the sidelines with an injury. So how can you reach your goals without risking injury? By incorporating strength training into your workout routine.
Why isn’t running the best way to meet ones running goals?
Because running on its own can lead to muscle imbalances, which in turn can lead to injury. This is especially true in runners who have form or gait flaws, you will never be a record breaker if your injured. The body tissues take time to adjust to increased training – muscles and cardiovascular capacity adjust fairly quickly, but tendon, ligament and bone take considerably longer. And it is the tendons, ligaments and bones which strength training can impact most.
Many athletes avoid strength training, out of fear of adding bulk which might slow their running. The reality is, strength training in runners isn’t about adding bulk, just strength. That means lower weights, or just your body weight, and higher repetitions.
Here’s a sample workout that is great for runners.
Planks – Lie face down on the ground as if you were going to do a push up. Place your hands palm down under your shoulders and feet shoulder width apart. Push up, keeping straight arms and a straight line from the top of your head down through your toes. Hold this position for as long as you can. The goal is to be able to hold the plank with good form for up to 5 minutes. If it is too difficult with straight legs, you can drop down to your knees.
Expert Tip: Make this exercise more challenging by adding leg raises to target the gluteal muscles, lowering down to your forearms and raising back up, or raising each leg out and to the side, moving your knees towards your elbows.
Pushups – Lie face down on the ground with your hands just under your shoulders. Push up with your arms while keeping a straight line with your body from the top of your head down through your heels. Don’t allow the hips to sag, nor should you allow them to rise above the line between the head and heels. Do as many as you can, and add more each time you do this exercise. Work your way up to being able to do 50. If straight legged pushups are too difficult, drop down to your knees while maintaining the straight line.
Bent Over Dumbbell Row – Sit on the edge of a weight bench as if sitting in a chair with 2 dumbbells in your hands. The weight of the dumbbells should be difficult but not impossible for you to lift. Bend forward from the hips keeping your back straight (not arched) and lower your hands to the floor. Pull the weights toward your body using your arms and shoulders until they come to rest near your armpits. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you do this exercise. Repeat for 10 – 20 repetitions.
Hip Bridges with Leg Raises – Lie on your back with your arms at your sides, palms pushing into the floor. Now pull in your feet towards your buttocks and lift up your hips into a hip bridge. Lift the hips as high as possible to engage the glutes. Hold for one minute. Now straighten out your right leg, lift it over your hips perpendicular to the floor, now lower. Continue lifting and lowering while continuing to hold the bridge position as high as possible with your other leg. Repeat 10 – 20 times on each leg.
Alternating Overhead Lunges – Standing with feet slightly apart, lift a pair of dumbbells overhead, with your arms straight. Step back with your left leg and lower down until your front knee approaches 90 degrees and your rear knee is about an inch off the floor. Return to the starting position, then repeat with your right leg. That’s one repetition. Repeat 10 – 20 times on each leg.
Adding these exercises to your workout routine targets the core and hip muscles which are so important for runners.