Strength training for runners

If you’re as obsessed with running as I am, you actually dread the “rest” days. And if you love running as much as I do, I’m sure you don’t actually “rest” on those “rest” days. I use the ironic quotations because I know many of you are thinking, true, I cheat on some of my rest days and just run a shorter distance than normal because that counts as rest, right? Wrong. It is extremely important to actually rest from running on your rest days. Your body needs time to rejuvenate and reinvigorate your muscles.

However, there is a slight loophole to these so-called rest days: strength training. As important as it is to up your mileage and continue with tempo runs and interval training, it’s extremely important to strengthen your muscles. If you don’t strengthen you are at extreme risk for injury, which will surely make all of your days rest days.

As written in an article on by Tom Holland of Windy City Sports Magazine:

I contend that running doesn’t cause injuries, but rather illuminates our weak links and allows us to see what we need to improve upon. There’s no greater way of determining how to improve our bodies than by listening to and accessing how we respond to running.

So, you ask, I’m a distance runner, I don’t want to bulk up, what could I possible do to build muscle mass? It’s easy. Create a consistent schedule for yourself, maybe twice or three times a week, determine how much weight you should be lifting, and most importantly, do the exercises correctly.

Starting off, I’d suggest doing squats to build muscle in your quads (thighs) and gluteus maximus (your bum). These are the two muscles that are probably the most important to runners. I’d also suggest core strengthening exercises, particularly plank exercises.

Here are four key exercises you can try to start off:

  • Bodyweight squats- stand with your feet square, hip length apart. Squat down as if sitting in a chair. Be sure your knees do not go beyond your toes. Come back up to a standing position and do 12 repetitions, three times.
  • Push-ups- runners use there arms to pump along during their run so it’s important to build arm muscle. One of the simplest exercises are push-ups.
  • Planks- You want to be sure to increase your core muscles because having a strong core means having strong balance. Planks are one of the best exercises for increasing core strength because unlike sit-ups, they target the inner muscles of your core, helping you to deepen your strengthening.
  • Cross-fit- adding in another form of cardio to your routine will help your muscles develop in different ways and help you to avoid muscle memory (and getting bored). I like to do circuit training with jumping jacks, mountain climber, burpees and grasshoppers. Some people also enjoy bicycling, swimming or taking a group fitness class. Whatever your preference, make sure to add it in once a week.