It seems I need to be constantly reminded how important strength training exercisesare to runners. And by reminded, I don’t mean told nicely… I mean experiencing joint and back pain. Working in a consistent strength training routine to my schedule has proven to be difficult. I’m tired. I want my easy days to be…. well, easy.
Unfortunately, skipping out on strength training to rest isn’t helping me in the long run, or on my long run. And the longer I run, the more I notice where my weaknesses are.
Our experts have provided us with some great strength training exercises that will keep our legs strong beneath us and keep our distance training program injury free.
Strengthen Legs and Hips
In general, you are only as strong as your weakest link. Distance running can place repetitive stress on the hips, knees and ankles. For sure, runners should always strengthen their tibialis anterior, the muscle on the front of the tibia. If this muscle is weak, runners often experience shin splints which can hamper performance or even sideline them for long periods of time. Strengthening the hamstrings, calves and quadriceps will stabilize the knee joint and strengthening the muscles around the pelvic girdle will stabilize the hips.
Strengthen Your Base
Attention runners. Strengthen your base of support for optimal performance and injury prevention. Closed kinetic chain exercises like standing squats with a medicine ball held out away from your body are an ideal way to strengthen your legs and hips in a physiologic manner.
Planks strengthen your core, hips and leg muscles from multiple different angles and improve performance in multiple directions. Strengthened muscles provide stabilty and absorb some of the impact that would otherwise be transmitted to the joint
Strong and Steady Wins the Race
It is essential to incorporate strategic, running-specific strength training into a running training regimen. Running is a ballistic sport and can cause injury if appropriate stabilizers are not strong enough to support your body weight, multiplied times gravity (9.8m/s2) in a repetitive motion, thousands of steps at a time.
Two great exercises specific to building running strength and stability are single leg toe raises and the lunge-to-balance.
Leg Toe Raises
The starting position for single leg toe raises is to stand square before a wall, about a foot from arm’s length. Press your hands flat against the wall, at shoulder height (your body is at an angle with the wall now), keeping your shoulders drawn back. Lift your left knee so your thigh is parallel to the floor. Press through the ball of your right foot, lifting the heel. Lower and repeat about 15 times, and repeat on your left leg.
Lunge to Balance
Lunge to balance starts you in a runners’ lunge position. Begin with your right leg forward, knee over ankle, chest leaned (from the hips, not your waist) forward over mid-thigh), left leg trails behind you with left heel lifted off the ground. Lower your left knee to the ground. As you straighten your right leg into “up & ready” position, press through your left foot, bringing your left knee up toward your chest. Return to ready and repeat on each side about 15 times.
Both of these exercises are dynamic and require core control. Start slowly and think about the muscles that are working to move and stabilize: abs, gluts, quads (fronts of thighs), calves, and back.
Think about those muscles that are working as you run. It will help your running mechanics.
Do you incorporate strength training exercises into your shorter runs? How do you fit strength training into your routine?