Why strength training is important for running

Become a better, faster, and a stronger runner by incorporating strength training into your program.  Exercises specific for this activity will increase the ability of your tendons, ligaments, muscles and bones to withstand the impact of running. You will improve performance, decrease chances of injury and recover faster.  I will focus on bodyweight exercises which can be done easily in the comfort of your own home or outdoors.

Bodyweight routines can help build the strength necessary to prevent future overuse injuries.  Running injuries are commonly caused by weak hips which is problematic for runners who sit most of the day. Hip and glute strength is crucial in stabilizing the muscles used for running.  Core strength is essential in maintaining your posture as you fatigue. When the muscles around your knees are strong, you are less likely to become imbalanced. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in August 1995  showed that runners who added three days of resistance training exercises to their weekly program increased their leg strength and enhanced their endurance.

CORE AND ARM SERIES  Build a strong and balanced foundation with your deeper abdominal muscles.  Upper body strength also plays an important role in preventing chronic neck, back and shoulder pain.

Basic Plank – Start with elbows underneath shoulders and either knees or feet on the floor.  Hold for 15-20 seconds for 2-3 sets and slowly work your way up each week.

Side Plank – with elbow underneath shoulder and opposite hand on hip, find the modification which suits you best. Hold for 15-20 seconds for 2-3 sets.

Superman – lying face down, keep arms shoulder width apart and legs hip width apart.  Squeeze your lower abdomen into the floor as you lift arms and legs simultaneously off the floor. Hold for a second, then release.  Do 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions

Prone “Y” raises – lying face down, keep forehead on the floor as point your thumbs up. Squeeze shoulder blades as you lift hands about two inches off the floor. Do 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Prone lat pull back – lying face down, lift the arms off the floor as you engage lower abdominals. Bend elbows back towards ribcage and squeeze shoulder blades. Keep head neutral and chest lifted. Return to start. Do 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Pushup – Place hands underneath shoulders with either knees or feet on the floor. Keep your back straight as you descend. Go as low as possible before you push yourself back up. Narrow your hands to increase difficulty.  Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.

Baby Cobra – open up your chest and strengthen your upper middle back.  Lying face down, keep your hands by your chest. Draw shoulders up, back and down as you squeeze shoulders blades back gently. Hold for a second and release.  Repeat 3 more times.

LEG SERIES is meant to build strength in the lower region, especially glutes and hips which are often weak and can lead to all types of knee and hip instability and injuries.

Basic Squat – start with feet about hip width apart and toes pointed out slightly. Keep your back upright as descend keeping weight in the heels and pushing your knees out. Drive yourself back up by squeezing your glutes. Do 2-3 sets of 10-12 repetitions.

Reverse Lunges – start with hands on hips and feet hip width apart. Draw a straight line back with one foot and stay on the ball of that foot.  Keep your hips square as you bend the back leg about ninety degrees.  Return to start and switch legs.  Do 2- 3 sets of 10-20 repetitions

Single Leg Squats – strengthens the glute medius, the primary stabilizer of the hip.  When this muscle is weak, it can contribute to low back, knee and hip pain.  Find a bench and walk your feet a few inches in front of the bench. Lift one leg off the floor as you slowly descend on the opposite leg.  Stand up on both legs and switch.  Once you become stronger, try to lower and lift off the same leg. Do 2-3 sets of 10 reps alternating legs.

Ease into these exercises and slowly work your way up.  Two to three times a week is sufficient for fitness gains.  Cross train with the exercises to counteract the wear and tear on your joints. Some statistics puts the annual injury rate of runners as high as 85 percent. Do you really want to be sidelined? Prevent your chances of imbalances and injuries and become a faster, stronger and more powerful runner by starting today.

Cindy Lai Fitness

NASM-CPT / Holistic Health Coach

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