If you want to become a stronger, faster runner and lower your risk for injury, incorporating strength training into your exercise routine is a must.
Unfortunately, many runners leave out strength training from their workouts or only do it occasionally—which is unfortunate because strength workouts are crucial to endurance training. Running alone just isn't going to provide you with the strength and overall fitness level you need to improve your times. Adding the following five exercises to your weekly workouts will not only help you minimize injury and gain strength but will help you achieve peak running performance:
1. Standard body squats.
Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart with your toes pointing forward. Sit back like you are sitting on a chair. Be sure to keep your knees directly over your ankles. Do three sets of 12 repetitions. If you need, you can hold 5- or 10-pound dumbbells for extra resistance.
2. Perfect walking lunges.
Stand upright, and take a large stride back with your right leg, lowering your hips toward the floor by bending both knees to perfect 90-degree angles. Don’t let your knee hit the ground. Repeat with your left leg. Do four sets of 12 repetitions on each leg.
3. Full-body push-ups.
Start in plank position with your hands placed shoulder-width apart. Make sure your fingers are spread outward. Engage your core and begin to lower your entire body toward the ground, keeping your head, neck, and back in a straight line. Don’t allow your torso to drop down or stick out. Keep your elbows tucked into your sides. Push yourself back up. Perform three sets of 15 repetitions each.
4. Traditional abdominal crunches.
Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the ground. Keep your shoulders back with your chin up. Don’t tuck your chin into the neck. Lift the upper half of your body while slowly exhaling, and then inhale going back down. Do four sets of 25 repetitions.
5. Bicycle crunches.
Lie flat on your back with your knees bent, your feet on the ground, and your hands behind your head. Bring your right elbow to meet your left knee; repeat on the other side. Do three sets of 25 repetitions on each side. This is a great exercise to increase oblique strength and build a stable core.
Finally, be sure to spend 5 to 10 minutes stretching all of the major muscle groups after any workout. Some of my favorites include lying hamstring stretches, standing quad stretches, lying piriformis stretches (allows the hip to rotate), standing calf stretches, and ITB (illiotibial band runs outside the thigh from the hip to the shin) stretches.
Incorporate this exercise sequence into your running routine two to three days per week for at least six weeks, and I promise you'll see improvements in your flexibility and strength. Other great workouts for runners include yoga, high-intensity interval training, and boxing. Good luck!
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