It seems ironic, but if you’re training for running—especially long distance—running isn’t enough. Strength training will make the difference between good and great on race day.
Runners tend to do one thing: run. It’s a notorious source of repetitive stress injury and you’re much more likely to get hurt if you don’t do strength training. The bonus, strength training will likely make you faster, too.
I see a lot of runners in the office reporting pain, tenderness and soreness. Most of the time, they chalk it up to too much running or something that happened out on the road. But that’s rarely the cause. More likely, it has nothing to do with running and it’s directly related to strength and tone in the glutes and misaligned pelvis and hips.
Although we use both legs for running, it’s really a single-leg activity. Runners are never on both feet at once. So it’s important to cross train to be sure each leg can handle the load and stress, especially over the long haul in marathons and half-marathons.
We hear some often-repeated myths about strength training: it will make you bulky; it slows you down; it can cause injury.
The opposite is true! Research clearly shows that strength training is always a good idea in runners. And my experience in the exam room confirms the science. Strength training can reduce knee pain, it can protect against stress fractures and it can improve time trial performance.
That’s why I advise all my runner patients to add strength training, mostly focused on the gluteus maximus; your buns muscles.
It’s all about your bottom
The glutes are the biggest muscles in the leg and that’s where your running power comes from. The glutes propel you forward. Strengthening the glute mass protects you against repetitive stress injuries. And more strength means more power, which can often increase your speed.
It’s not difficult to do the right thing. The exercises I recommend are easy and quick—it just takes commitment to get them in every week.
These are my three favorites, especially for long distance runners. For each of these exercises, Do three sets of 10 reps without weights or three sets of five reps with weights, on each leg.
Single leg dead lift:
Split squat with elevated leg:
Each will do more for your glutes than running alone, and that will do more for your running.
I also recommend getting a loop resistance band. It’s made of the same material as a regular resistance band, but it’s made in a loop, like a large rubber band. It’s a simple way to work out the glutes—and you can even work them at the same time you warm up or cool down:
- Monster walk: Loop the band around your knees or ankles, then walk 20 – 30 steps, forwards and backwards. Do this three times.
- Glute bridge: lie on your back, on the floor. Loop the band around your lower thighs. Now bring your pelvis up towards the ceiling four – five inches while bringing your knees out away from the midline. Do three sets of 10 without weights three sets of five, with weights.
Your legs are stronger than you think. Challenge yourself. You should be able to lift at least a third of your body weight with each leg—men and women, both.
Adding these exercises to your routine will make a big difference when you hit the road.