Why Strength Training is Important for Runners

Runners love to run, that’s what we do!

However, as a coach, I try and encourage my clients to cross-train with strength training at least 2X a week. Often the response from both men and women is that the strength training will work against their running program. There is also great fear of either becoming “too bulky” from strength training, or that the body, especially the lower body and posterior chain, will become too sore and tight to run.

Of course as with any program, there must be proper, responsible balance and timing for both your strength and endurance training program. For example, if you have a race coming up, you may not want to work towards your one rep max back squat within 48 hours of the race!

However, strength training is essential; without it runners stand the risk of overuse injuries such as tendonitis, as well as bone and joint disease known as osteoarthritis.

Strength training can help increase bone density, keep the stabilizing muscles strong to prevent overuse injury of the tendons, as well as assist in the improvement of cardiorespiratory strength by improving muscle endurance. Incorporating strength training into a runner’s program can also help prevent athlete boredom, as well as promote progression of athletic performance (aka you’ll start PR’ing like crazy!).

As a coach, I can only give what has been given to me by way of education, coaching and my own experience. Learning from years of running and ONLY running (literally running my joints into osteoarthritis!) has enabled me to pass on my experience to my clients. I always have a strength portion built into our sessions, whether it is woven into the run intervals or as its own 10-20 min portion of our session. I focus on performance, stabilizing movements, as well as dynamic movements that improve both aerobic and muscular endurance simultaneously.

I love to keep the workouts fun and spontaneous as well! For example, I will take my clients to the park for an impromptu Fartlek run, (“Fartlek” is Swedish for “speed play”). Within our 3-mile Fartlek, there will be hills, sprints and recovery stretches, all woven together with body weight resistance movements lasting 1-2 minutes each.

Here are a few examples of what I may do with my clients as their strength/stability portion of our session:

**Always warm-up and cool down! Dynamic stretches to limber the muscles and increase core temperature to warm up; static stretches for cooling down, relaxation, and flexibility!

“Snowy Stay Stability” (20-30 min)

5 rounds:

  • 10 push-ups with a 10-pound slam ball
  • 20 reverse weighted lunges with a twist (10/leg)
  • 25 weighted sit-ups with arms holding ball straight overhead
  • 30 one-arm squat thrusters with ball
“Get off the Bench” (10 min)

3 rounds:

  • 10 dips (using bench)
  • 10 plank rows
  • 20 lunges off the bench (one leg stays on the bench as you lower your body)
“I’m with The Band” (10-15 min)

3 rounds:

  • 10 banded rows
  • 10 banded pull downs
  • 10 banded bicep curls
  • 10 hip abductors with band
  • 10 hip adductors with band 
“Stabilize That Core!” (10-15 min)

3 rounds:

  • 10 push-ups with legs on stability ball
  • 10 stability ball pike ups
  • 10 bench press with dumbbells on stability ball
  • 10 weighted crunches on stability ball
“Central Park Relay”

Fartlek run 2-3 miles, alternate hill sprints, 100, 200, 400, 800 sprints, and recovery jogs, together with these resistance movements woven into the 2-3 mile run (45-60 min)

Each movement is an AMRAP (as many reps as possible) for 2 minutes:

  • Step ups or jumps up to the bench
  • Push-ups
  • V-sits
  • Squats to a bench or single leg squats to a bench
  • Burpees
  • Side-to-side lunges
  • Bear crawls
“Smoke those 400’s!” (25-30 min)

Either outside or on a treadmill

Run 400m (.25 mi)

2 rounds:

  • 10 wall balls with medicine ball
  • 10 v-sits
  • 10 spider man push-ups

400m run

2 rounds:

  • 20 Russian twists
  • 20 mountain climbers
  • 20 jumping squats

400m run

2 rounds:

  • 10 plank rows
  • 10 bicycles (double count)
  • 10 burpees

400m run

**Always warm-up and cool down!

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