Running Strong: 4 Strength Exercises Every Runner Should Do

While you may have started running to take care of your wellbeing or enhance your weight wellness, once you’ve got the bug you care about one thing; being a better runner. No matter what kind of runner you are, or how many races you have done, you want to get faster, go further, improve your technique, be more efficient and stay injury free. However, if you want to achieve any of these goals, you have to do more than just run. To reach your full running potential, you need to incorporate other exercises into your fitness routine.


According to fitness instructor and certified personal trainer Nicole Nichols, ‘Runners are a breed all their own. I can say that because I am a runner. We can be quirky about our race rituals and to outsiders looking in, our lives seem to revolve around a “boring” sport of putting one foot in front of the other. But as any runner knows, it’s not really that simple (or boring!), to try to fit in fartleks, quarters, repeats and speed work along with your hills, distance runs, and race days. Mile after mile, we pound the pavement—rain, cold or sun—to reach our goals.’ Sure, speed work is easy, but what about strength?


Nichols notes, ‘Strength training is an important form of exercise for serious athletes and recreational exercisers alike, because not only does it help you build lean muscles that power your body through tough runs, but it also fires up your metabolism to help with weight-control and strengthens your bones against age-related deterioration. A solid strength training programme can help runners achieve a more balanced musculature for greater power and a lower injury risk.’ So, as a runner, what moves should you include as part of your strength-training programme?


1. Squats: Nichols asserts, ‘Squats are the single most effective exercise that you can perform to strengthen the entire lower body. Squats target the quadriceps, hamstrings, hips, hip flexors, and glutes, and even activate your core. When done properly, they can also help strengthen your knees and prevent knee pain and injury.’


2. Lateral Movements: ‘Runners seem to only move in one direction: forwards,’ says Nichols. ‘That’s why it’s important to train your body through other planes of movement, like backwards or sideways (laterally). Lateral moves help you train often-neglected muscles like the abductors (outer thigh) and adductors (inner thigh), helping increase stability at your joints, improve your balance, and prevent injury.’


3. Push-Ups: Nichols warns, ‘Runners often neglect their upper bodies when training, but a strong upper body is essential for overall fitness and powerful runs. Push-ups help strengthen the arms, chest, and shoulders, as well as the core, in one move, and you can do them anywhere, too. Various types of bench presses or chest presses also work many of the same muscles, but there are plenty of ways to continue challenging yourself with push-ups.’ Why not try push-ups using an exercise ball or standing and pushing against a wall to get more variation into your workout?


4. Plank: It’s not just your upper body and lower body you need to work on, but also the bit in the middle. ‘As a runner, you are only as strong as your core is—your abs, obliques, lower back and hips,’ Nichols points out. ‘These muscles, which wrap around your torso like a corset, help you balance and support every step you take. Strong abdominals and lower back muscles also help you run with better posture, which aids in breathing. The plank is one of the best ways you can train every muscle in your core.’

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