Strength Training for Optimal Race Performance
I am guilty of falling into the trap of only running. As a busy mom, it is easier for me to get out and run and ignore important training items like strength training and stretching. But when I DO strength train I perform better. I love to try new fitness trends, but the strength program that I have benefited the most from is very simple, and only takes an extra 30 – 40 minutes in your week to complete.
Here is my ultimate strength training plan for runners – and why each exercise is so important. I recommend completing this twice a week either on a day that you are not running or on a day that you are doing an easy, low mileage run.
Complete the following exercises as a circuit 2 – 3 times.
This exercise will help increase your core and leg strength and builds power to help when you need to kick your run up a notch. When I am at home, I use a bottom step (skipping a stair if I have more strength). If you do step-ups you need to do 15 per side.
Squats to Shoulder Press
Compound exercises give you a better bang for your buck. I like this basic move because having the weights lifted on your shoulders helps to keep you from tipping forward (a mistake many make when doing a squat). Squats are great for building glute and quad strength for your run.
Around the World Lunges
I recommend doing this without weights to start. It is as much a stretch as it is a core, hip and leg strength exercise. Running requires all forward motion, so adding an exercise that uses lateral motion helps to strengthen the IT band (a common injury area for runners). Take your time doing this exercise and focus on good form. If your knees pop or are uncomfortable, complete the exercise without bending the extended leg – it is still a good hip exercise that way.
If you could only do one exercise this is what I would recommend. It not only builds your upper body strength, but it is also a great core exercise (and the power behind your run comes from your core). Start from your knees or against a wall if you are not able to do a full push up.
Superman Back Extensions
I like this for your lower back strength, which is an often overlooked part of core strength. It is hard to do this incorrectly. The goal is to lay on your stomach and lift your arms and legs up toward the ceiling like you are flying. If doing both at once is too much, try lifting your right arm/left leg then switching (like you are swimming).
15 Full Sit-Ups
I suggest that you butterfly your legs, keeping your heels together, for this exercise. This helps take the pressure off your lower back, and it prevents you from using your thighs to help you up. If you need support for your lower back, add a rolled towel underneath. Again, core muscles are critical for runners so this one is a staple.
Russian or Oblique Twists
I prefer this oblique exercise over others as it is easier to do correctly and it works your entire core. You can use weight for this but you don’t have to. It is more important to focus on your form and not rush through it.
Work up to completing circuit twice a week for three rounds. It is a great way to make sure you are getting in strength training, without taking too much time away from your weekly mileage.