Running

Strength Training For Runners

Running. You either love it or you hate it.

But however you feel about it, there are some undeniable benefits to including it in your training:

  • It gets your heart rate up – not only great for your cardiovascular system but for your waistline too.
  • It releases endorphins – you may not always enjoy it while it’s happening, but afterwards you’ll feel great. So, running can be a real mood booster.
  • It’s great for stress relief – tough day at work? Running is ideal for burning off some of that adrenaline.
  • It pushes you – need a new challenge? It doesn’t matter whether you’re training for your next marathon or hoping to finish your first 5k, there are always ways to get better, faster and stronger.
  • It’s free – you don’t need an expensive gym membership to get out there and start running. You can literally start today!
  • It helps you to clear your mind – got a lot to think about? Running is great for getting some time to yourself to sort out all those thoughts running through your head.
  • You can go with a friend – ideal for motivating you as well as making sure you keep pushing yourself.
  • You can vary your runs – long runs, short runs, sprints, jogs and intervals – these are all great for your fitness and you can choose what you do and when.

If you’re new to running, it can feel tricky when you first start out. But with regular practice, it does get easier and that’s when you can start to relax into your own rhythm.

Running top tip:

Doing something as simple as wearing Ankle Weights while you’re at home is an easy and effective way to get your strength up.

Why running on its own can be a problem

Running is definitely beneficial and can be a great way to supplement your strength training.

However, if you’re just running and not doing any stretching or strengthening around it, you could end up injuring yourself.

Because running is so repetitive as well as high impact, a lot of runners can suffer from sore knees, tight hip flexors and muscle tension. So, making sure you maintain a good strengthening routine around your running schedule, is essential.

Should you stretch before running?

The best stretches to do when warming up are dynamic stretches which can include:

  • Knees to chest
  • Forward leg swings with toe touch
  • Butt kicks on the spot
  • Lunges with upper body twist
  • Hip and shoulder rotations
  • Quick side steps
  • Walking lunges

Doing static stretches (where you hold deep stretches for between 30 seconds and a minute) before you go running, however won’t necessarily help you prevent injuries. In fact, it could actually increase your chances of hurting yourself.

Injuries are much more likely to be caused by weak muscles rather than through lack of stretching. And stretching without doing any strengthening can weaken muscles even further.

If you’re not confident with stretching, the safest thing to do is to allow your body to prepare itself for exercise by simply easing yourself into a run with a fast-paced 10-minute walk.

Stretches you can do after a run

Once your muscles are warm, it’s a good idea to loosen up any tight muscles, to help keep them in good working order. It’s important however that you balance out any stretches with a strengthening routine, which we’ve detailed below.

Calf stretch

Push your hands up against a wall and step one foot back at a time to gently stretch out your calf muscles. Hold for around 30 seconds to a minute each.

Psoas stretch

The psoas is fundamental for running is often one of the first things to ache when you train regularly. It runs from the lower back and finishes around the front of your hip. To stretch it out, lunge forward down onto one knee and gradually lean into the stretch. You can also stretch up your arm on the same side to help reach full extension. Hold for a minute and then repeat on the other side.

young man stretching on an orange gym mat doing the psoas pose

Hamstring stretch

Cross one foot over the other with a slight bend in your knees and reach your hands all the way down to your feet. Hold for around 30 seconds to a minute and then swap sides.

Pigeon pose stretch

Whenever you increase your speed or put more power into your running, you instantly engage your glutes. This means however that they can get quite tight after doing a lot of training. Keep your muscles stretched out by doing some seated pigeon poses. These are Yoga poses which essentially stretch out your glutes. Sit with one leg in a crossed leg position in front of you, and the other stretched back directly behind you. You can also lean forwards to increase the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds to a minute and then repeat on the other side.

young healthy man stretching on an orange mat doing the pigeon pose

Quad stretch

Fold one leg behind you and hold your ankle close to your butt so the front of your raised leg is stretched out. You can tense your glutes and push your hips slightly forward to increase the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute and then repeat on the other side.

Tensor Fascia Lata (TFL) stretch

This stretch can take a bit of getting used to but it’s a classic runner’s stretch and really important for loosening off your hips. Stand about a foot away from a wall, side on. Step your outside leg inwards towards the wall and in front of your body. You can use your hand to support you against the wall. Lean into the stretch so you feel it along the outside of your hip (the side that’s closest to the wall). Hold for 30 seconds and then release and swap sides.

young man stretching in a gym with a pull up bar behind him

Foam roll

Foam Rollers are essential for anyone who runs regularly. They really help keep your muscles working as well as reduce tension. Use one before and after your runs on your glutes, thighs and hip flexors.

Strengthening your running muscles

When doing a lot of running, you want to make sure your running muscles are strong and well-maintained to reduce your risk of injury, as well as help you get faster and more powerful. Doing these exercises will also help you build up your speed while doing hill sprints.

Donkey kicks

These work your glutes and are great for runners. On all fours, kick your leg back and up while keeping your knee bent. Bring your knee back towards your chest and repeat (30 times on each leg).

young healthy man stretching on an orange mirafit exercise mat doing a donkey kick

Fire hydrants

Again, these will attack your glutes and around the sides of your hips. On all fours, bring your bent leg up to the side so that it’s at a 90-degree angle to your body, and then release back down again. Do 30 reps and then repeat on the other side.

young healthy man stretching on an orange mirafit exercise mat doing a fire hydrant

Box jumps

Plyo Jump Boxes are great for increasing your explosivity – ideal for the last sprint to the end! Get a box that’s a challenging height for you and then practice jump squats and step ups on them. For box jumps, squat down and then jump up onto the box while landing both feet on the box at the same time. Keep your knees soft as you land. Jump back down and repeat x 30.

Air squats

Squats are fantastic for helping you to target your hip flexors, quads, glutes, hamstrings and lower back all in one go. A must for runners, stand with your legs slightly wider than hip width apart. With your toes pointing outwards slightly, push your weight back and down while maintaining a straight back. When your thighs are parallel with the floor, push yourself back up to start again. You can add in a jump in-between squats for an extra challenge. Do as many as you can in a minute and then rest.

Hip bridges

These target your posterior chain and will help you develop the muscles that give you speed and power when running. Lie on the floor with your knees up and your arms down by your side. Lift your hips up as high as they will go while keeping your back straight. You can either hold this position for 30 seconds and then release. Or you can place a weight over your hips and do 30 x reps instead. Something like a Sandbag is perfect for these sorts of exercises.

young healthy man stretching on an orange mirafit exercise mat doing hip bridges

Side leg raises

These target the sides of your hips which are important for keeping an even stride. Lie on one side with the bottom leg slightly bent and top leg straight. Lift your leg up to the side while keeping your toes pointed downwards slightly. It’s really important that you focus on using your hips for this movement and not your legs so avoid using the larger muscles to help you. Your leg won’t go as high as you first expect but that’s fine. Repeat 30 times and then swap to the other side.

So, whether you’re new to running, have just joined a club or are looking to get faster, all of these exercises are a sure way to start building up some real speed and power.

young man stretching on an orange exercise mat doing a side leg raise

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