It is a common misconception that to run well you just need to do a lot of running. When you are starting out the more time on your feet running, the fitter you will become. However you soon reach a point where you either hit a plateau or worse, you get injured. The solution is to incorporate strength work into your training schedule. This should be a priority for any runner looking to improve performance or overcome niggling injuries.
Many runners shun working out with weights as they are worried about putting on bulk, which will slow them down. This really is a misconception. Having a strong core, legs and upper body as well as reducing ‘junk’ miles from your training programme will make you a better runner. The exercises below are designed to build the strength that you need to cope with endurance runs from 5k’s right up to marathon distance without adding any bulk to your frame.
Make it specific
Resistance training can strengthen muscles and make them less susceptible to damage, especially if the strength building exercises involve movements that are similar to those associated with the sport. Time should be devoted to developing the muscle groups with strength training as appropriate to the demands of the sport.
Try incorporating 2 strength sessions a week in to your training – these need not take more than 30 minutes. Perform the exercises as a circuit using a weight that allows you to complete 12-15 reps of each exercise. Repeat the circuit 3 times.
Name of exercise: Rotating Lunge
What it works: (ie, balance, core strength, glutes, hamstrings, etc): Gluteal Stability and Lower Body Strength
Why it will help your marathon training: Rotating when lunging recreates rotational movements that you make when you run. As you turn your glutes (which are major stability muscles) have to work harder to keep your hips in a neutral/ strong position.
How to do it: Hold a medicine ball or weight level with your shoulders and take a step forward. Bend your knees to 90 degrees maintaining a straight torso. As you lower rotate away from the knee going towards the ground. Push back up and return to the starting position.
Name of exercise: Knee Drive
What it works: (ie, balance, core strength, glutes, hamstrings, etc): Dynamic power in the hamstrings, glutes and calves.
Why it will help your marathon training: This exercise will help to teach optimal alignment and engagement for the propulsion stage of running and target all lower body muscles and improve balance.
How to do it: From a standing position maintaining a straight torso, step your right foot back bending your back knee, lowering yourself towards the ground. Drive up from the legs, squeezing your bum and come up on to your fore foot working your calf muscle. Place one foot on a raised step to make the exercise more difficult.
Name of exercise: Single Leg Deadlift.
What it works: (ie, balance, core strength, glutes, hamstrings, etc): Hamstring and gluteal stability and strength.
Why it will help your marathon training: Making sure you are suitably strong around your hips and glutes is important as it will protect your back which can carry tension if you increase the volume of your running training.
How to do it: Always maintain a straight torso with no flexing of your back. Maintain a slightly flexed standing leg. Lean forward from the hips lowering yourself down as far as you can whilst maintaining a straight torso. Squeeze your bum and extend your body back to the starting position.
Name of exercise: Single Leg Plank
What it works: (ie, balance, core strength, glutes, hamstrings, etc): Core strength around the abdominals.
Why it will help your marathon training: Developing strong abdominals helps maintain running form and will help you resist fatigue.
How to do it: Place your feet on a step. Rest your weight on your elbows and on your feet creating tension in your abdominals. When you feel suitably stable lift one foot off the floor and hold.