Strength training is important for every distance runner. Having a strong, well-balanced body greatly reduces the risk of injury and can also increase race performance. This requires not just working on one specific group of muscles, but rather looking at the body holistically. A runner with a strong lower body will be injured less frequently as the muscles of the leg will work to support each other. A strong upper body will help a runner power through the late stages of a race, keeping proper form while that of other runners will break down. Luckily, strengthening these muscles does not require an expensive gym membership. Below is a list of 7 exercises that you can do right in your own home.
- Planks: In my opinion, planks are the most important core exercise a runner can do. Sadly, they are not likely to give you the immediate satisfaction of a 6 pack of abs, but they will strengthen a wide variety of upper body muscles necessary for distance running. There are many kinds of planks, but here we will stick with the two most common: front and side planks. Front planks require you to start by laying face-down on the floor. Raise yourself up onto your elbows and hold that position. Focus on using your abdominal muscles to bear the weight. Side planks are done by supporting yourself on one elbow and turning your body so that it is perpendicular to the floor. Focus on using your obliques to bear the weight. A good routine for planks is to cycle through a set of Front Plank - Left Side Plank - Right Side Plank. I recommend holding them for 45 seconds each. As you get stronger you will be able to complete multiple sets without needing a break.
- Push-ups: This one is pretty self-explanatory. Make sure to maintain good form when completing these (do not cut corners).
- Superman: Lie face-down on your stomach and raise both your arms and legs into the air, hold for 2-3 seconds, then return to the ground. This will work your lower back. Do 2-3 sets of 15 repeats.
- Bridge: This is a glute exercise. Lie on your back and bring your feet towards your butt so your legs form a 45-degree angle. Lift your butt off the ground and focus on engaging your glute muscles. Hold for 2-3 seconds then lower yourself. Complete 2-3 sets of 15 repeats.
- Russian twist: This is an ab/oblique exercise. Sit on the floor with your knees bent and pulled half-way to your stomach. Raise your feet off the ground, focusing on engaging your stomach region. Twist side to side with your arms, touching the ground on each twist. You may do this with a medicine ball in your hands to make it more challenging.
- Body weight squats: Focus on getting power from your glutes.
- Lunges: Walk forward bringing your back knee to the ground and using your front leg to return yourself to a standing position. Complete sets of 10 lunges on each side, then complete a set of 10 backward lunges.
Completing these exercises 2-3 times per week will help move you closer to the goal of having a well-rounded, strong body.