Strength-training for long-distance runners

Anisha Mishra

August 4, 2023

Prepare your body for Marathons
Prepare your body for long distance running.

Many believe that to be a successful runner, all you have to do is sprint regularly. The truth is that to become a stronger and faster runner you need to strength-train too. Some studies have shown runners can reduce injuries with just 10 to 20 minutes of strength-training daily.

A majority of runners benefit from total body exercises that work the entire body as a unit rather than each muscle individually. For instance, a squat works the entire lower body along with the core, whereas a leg extension only emphasises the quads. From an injury standpoint, multi-joint exercises help athletes to strengthen weak stabilizers and maintain better form.

How often do I strength-train? Consider how long you’ve been working out — both on the road and in the gym. For those training for a year or less, one day a week is a good start. Those with some experience in the weight room can start off with two days a week. For marathoners, at least three strength workouts are recommended every week.

The best time to introduce strength-training into a routine is during off-season when demands of running are low. It’s often easiest to add strength-training to a day when you’re already putting in a hard running workout as it also allows you to dedicate rest days to proper recovery.

What exercises can I do?

Bodyweight Squats – Stand with your feet hip distance apart with your toes facing forward. Sit back, without allowing your knees to go beyond your toes and wait till you feel your glutes, quads and hamstrings engage. Then come up to standing position. Complete eight to 12 repetitions, adding weight when this becomes easy.

Why it works Squats hit a lot of running-specific muscles, don’t require any equipment, and can easily be added to your post-run routine.

Single-Leg Deadlifts Holding a barbell in front of your body, bend one knee, hinge forward at the waist and lift the opposite leg behind you. Lower the weights, keeping them very close to the tops of your legs until you reach just below your knees. Engage the hamstring and glute of the leg planted on the ground and stand again. Repeat eight to 12 times and switch to the other leg.

Why it works A lot of runners are hamstring dominant and don’t use their glutes. Doing glute-specific exercises like this can build the glute muscles so they can be used when running. Donkey kicks and the single-leg pelvic bridge are other good exercises.

Core Work – Crunches, planks, the bicycle, reverse crunch are all effective.

Why it works Core muscles are vital and don’t always get worked enough with just running. Don’t just focus on abs — back muscles are just as important but often ignored.

Single-Leg Squats Balancing on one foot and squat down, bending at the knee and sitting your hips back as if you are going to sit in a chair behind you. Once down to about a 90 degree angle in your knee, extend your leg back up to standing. If this is too challenging allow the toes of your hovering foot to lightly rest on the ground. Complete eight to 12 reps and switch legs.

Why it works Runners basically hop from foot to foot for kilometers so it is important to stabilize your pelvis as it in turn centers your entire body, gait and stride too.

At our experts can help you prepare for your long distance running challenges by recommending the best diet and exercise plan.

About the Author

As a former State-Level Basketball player, Anisha has been a fitness enthusiast from a very young age. Converting her passion into a career, she completed her Bachelor's in Physiotherapy along with a Diploma in Sports Nutrition. Specialising in Postnatal Fitness, Rehabilitation, and Fitness for various medical conditions, Anisha has attended several workshops in the fitness field. With more than 6 years of experience as a Trainer, Anisha has now turned her attention to making fitness a way of life in the country, and the rest of the world, in her role as Sr. Fitness Trainer at HealthifyMe.

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