Q: I am an avid runner but I don’t really exercise at the gym. What are some exercises I could incorporate into my training regimen to improve my time?
A: There is a common misconception about runners and lifting. It goes something like this: “If you want to be a good runner, don’t lift weights. It will make you big and slow.” While you do not want to lift like you are training for a powerlifting competition, there are some huge benefits you can gain from adding a few exercises to your protocol.
If you are training for a meet or a competition you must taper your training appropriately. I will not get into that because it’s a whole subject to itself, but it must be considered when thinking about exercising. It is best to work with light -weights and perform sets around the 15-18 rep range with short rest at first (30-45 sec). After you spend sometime mastering your movements during this period I would suggest increasing the workload and staying within the 8-12 rep range for 3-5 sets with short rest between sets (60-90 sec).
It is important for runners to work on imbalances, tightness, and any mobilization issues within their workouts. Proper foam rolling and muscle activation techniques are highly recommended. That is another subject for another day, as well.
Below are 3 exercises that I would recommend to runners at all skill levels:
1. Single Leg Deadlifts - Many runners do not activate their glutes properly when they are running. This exercise directly targets the glutes and will get you firing them off properly when running.
2. Russian Twist- As a runner your core is everything. The ability of the trunk of the body to coordinate and be strong for the upper and lower body is crucial. This rotational exercise will give your core plenty of work. To make this, hold on to a medicine ball while twisting.
3. Squats- As one of the pillars of strength training, squats work most of the primary muscles used in running. This is a great exercise because it can be performed as a bodyweight exercise and still give you a great workout. Make sure you keep your feet forward, disengage the hips back, and bend the knees into your squat. Do not let the hips fold under, don’t let your knees drift out to your toes during the squat, and make sure you stand tall up top. Add a barbell and some weight to increase the difficulty of this exercise.