Strength Training Routine for Runners

Hey Everyone!

I hope you had a good weekend! Mine was a combination of busy and relaxing, which is nice because it seems like all the past few weeks have been is BUSY. Saturday I worked with clients from 9am until 1:30pm before working at the hotel from 3-11:30pm. And then yesterday I had my first race of the season, the Modo Spring Run-Off. Thankfully it didn’t start until 10am so I didn’t have to get up toooo early 😉

It was a gorgeous sunny day yesterday, perfect for an 8km run around the Seawall! And it was a great start to my racing season. I finished in just over 49 minutes and was 2 minutes off from being in the top group for my age category….that’s one of the perks of being part of a smaller race I guess! I didn’t push myself until the last kilometer since I had a running buddy, but I think next year I might have to add this event to the list of runs where friends don’t exist. And I said that in the nicest way possible 😉

Kirstie and I showing off the medals we got, even though one of us didn't pay an entry fee....

Kirstie and I showing off the medals we got, even though one of us didn’t pay an entry fee….

Next on my list is the Vancouver Sun Run on April 27, which is a 10km and one of those runs where I don’t wait for anybody. Then I’ve got the BMO Half Marathon in May, the Subaru International Vancouver Triathlon in July (sounds badass but I’m only doing the Sprint race), Seawheeze in August, then the Vancouver Rock n Roll Half Marathon in October. I’m sure there will be some 5km races scattered in and around there, and before you know it I’ll be back to stuffing my face with food and lifting weights through the winter again.

Back in December when I started going to physio I really wasn’t sure if I would get back to where I am right now. While I hadn’t totally given up on my time goals for the Sun Run and BMO, part of me knew I would be happy just being able to run them. Recovering from this IT aggravation has been a slow, frustrating, and still sometimes painful process but comfortably running sub 8 minute miles during my tempo runs and running 7 miles last week, which is the longest I’ve gone since last August, keeps me motivated to continue doing clam shells and resistance band side steps every day.

I know I’ve touched on this a little bit before, but my biggest mistake in all of this was thinking that if I took a break from running the problem would just go away. While this may have given my inflamed IT band a chance to settle down it didn’t solve the problem. There wasn’t one specific reason as to why this happened in the first place, but rather it was a combination of my running mechanics, my lower limbs that rotate inwards and outwards, kind of like a Dr. Seuss tree, and a weak core. While there’s not a whole lot I can do about hips and feet that rotate inwards and knees that kinda stick out aside from wearing orthotics and proper shoes, I can definitely work at strengthening my core! Which is exactly what I’ve been doing 🙂

These little exercises my physiotherapist gives me are BOOOOO-RING. I can feel all those little muscles in and around my hips working for sure, but I don’t break a sweat or get the same feeling that I do from a good lifting or cardio session. So a few weeks ago I decided to put together a full body endurance routine that incorporates many of these little exercises, and I’ve been doing it once a week in addition to my daily exercises.

This routine focuses on a lot of unilateral training, which is basically doing something on one foot. This is especially important for runners because, surprise surprise, while you’re running you’re on one foot! Squats are great for building strength and endurance in the lower body muscles, but they’re (mostly) done on two feet.

If one side of your body is weaker than the other, the stronger side will take over while you’re doing certain exercises which creates further imbalances. And imbalances often lead to injury. By only training one limb at a time you ensure that all the muscles that are supposed to be working ARE working. This will also give you an opportunity to identify imbalances you may not have known about.

When you’re doing these exercises really work at developing that mind-muscle connection. If you’re doing a single-leg squat on your right leg, focus on using all of the right gluteals and the hamstrings to control yourself while going down and to bring yourself back up. As you’re doing cable hip abductions with the left leg focus on that left glute to bring your leg out to the side and slowly bring it back down, and use that right hip to keep yourself stable. Keep the core engaged at ALL times by pretending to pull your bellybutton back to your spine and there will be no need to do crunches to build a strong core.

Perform 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps of the following exercises, 1-2 times per week depending on what the rest of your training schedule looks like. At a minimum you should be doing 2 sets of strengthening exercises twice per week to produce and maintain results. We’re working in what’s known as the endurance range; when the reps are at 12 and above we’re focusing more on developing our muscles’ ability to contract multiple times as opposed to increasing brute strength and mass. While this is not the only rep range that runners need to work in, it’s beneficial for this style of training.

Full Body Endurance Workout for Runners
Single Leg Squat x 12-15 each side. If you’re like me and can’t do a full single-leg squat (YET), squat down onto a bench and then come back up to standing. Don’t use momentum to get yourself back up.
Pull-Ups x Max – Unless you have shoulder injuries, everyone should be doing pull-ups. So go grab a counterbalance machine or a band if you can’t do strict ones yet and bang ’em out.
Single Leg Stiff-Legged Deadlift x 12-15 each side. Start off using a light set of dumbbells. As your balance improves pick up some heavier ones!
Push-Ups x Max – Same principle as pull-ups. Do them PROPERLY. I’d rather see 2 or 3 good ones than 15 shitty ones.
Cable Hip Abductions x 12-15 each side
Cable Knee Raises x 12-15 each side
Cable Kickbacks x 12-15 each side
Alternating Elevated Squats x 12-15 – Use a Bosu ball, an aerobic step, a sturdy box, anything you can safely keep one foot on while squatting. This is similar to a regular squat except one foot is flat on the ground and the other is on this raised surface. Perform a squat, then turn around and elevate the other leg before performing another squat. That’s one rep.
Fire Hydrant Kicks x 12-15 each side
Cable Squat to Upright Row x 12-15
Sphynx x 12-15 – This is a tough core exercise I learned back in my P90X days!
Plank x Max, Side Plank x Max each side 

Be sure to warm up for at least 5 minutes before performing this routine and take some time to stretch and foam roll afterwards. Recovery work is a HUGELY overlooked part of running, so don’t make the same mistakes as many others and take care of those muscles!

So my running friends, do you incorporate any strength training into your regular routine? If so, what kind of exercises do you do? If not, what’s holding you back?


6 thoughts on “Strength Training Routine for Runners

    • I hear ya on that! It’s tough when we enjoy doing certain things to incorporate other maybe not so enjoyable but still beneficial things into our routines.

      I always like to remind myself that doing these exercises is going to allow me to do the things I really love doing much longer, and most of them are relatively gentle on the body and just good at targeting those tiny little muscles 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by!

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