How to Run Longer - Strength Training Tips for Runners
Some of you might be thinking "What? We have to workout in order to run? Isn't running itself already a workout?" Yes, it is, but to be able to run longer with more ease, you'd better incorporate some strength training into your routine. I'm not talking about the type of strength training Urijah Faber or Serena Williams would do. Runners don't need to be that brawny. However, running can be much easier for those who are strong in both upper and lower sections of the body. "Can't we achieve that simply just from running?" you may ask. Unfortunately, no. Running can make your calves uber strong, but your torso might not develop as much sinew. After running for an hour straight, have you ever noticed that it's not only your legs that feel like melting rubber but your entire body? So if you think your "superman's calves" are all it takes to make you a good runner, think again!
Strength Training for Runners - Upper Body
Watch a pro marathoner run and you'll see that their whole body moves in sync. Their upper body is upright; their shoulders remain relaxed; and their arms move synchronously with their legs. People whose upper bodies aren't so fit, on the other hand, often hunch their shoulders slightly and carry their torso awkwardly like a dead weight. This is because they tend to get tired in the arms, shoulders and back pretty quickly. By doing some strength training regularly and maintaining a basic level of fitness in the upper section, your torso won't be a burden for you to carry while running anymore.
Some Good Strength Training Exercises for the Upper Body
- Dumbbell Lifting (Bicep Curls) - Heavier doesn't necessarily mean better. You could strain your muscles if you get too ambitious with the dumbbells. Ideally, choose a weight that you can lift 12 times consecutively with no difficulties.
- Push-Ups - When it comes to chest strengthening, this simple workout is an all time winner. You can do as many push-ups as you want at a time as long as it doesn't strain your muscles.
- Pull-Ups - A pull-up bar isn't something you can only find at a gym. Many public parks also have them for both adults and children. To do pull ups, grab the bar firmly with your hands about hip-width apart and pull your whole body up as high as you can. This exercise will help strengthen your arms, shoulders and back.
- Raising Dumbbells over Head - Just like when you do bicep curls, try to choose a weight that's not too overwhelming for you. You can either lift two dumbbells at once or only work on one side at a time. Hold a dumbbell in your hand, with your elbow bent and your palm facing away from you. Then straighten your arm slowly and push the dumbbell towards the ceiling. Do it about 12 times on each side. It will make your shoulders stronger.
Strength Training for Runners - Mid Section
"A distance runner couldn't be too strong in the middle," said Ron Clarke, an Olympic runner who notably set 17 world records in the 1960s. Every time your foot hits the ground while running, the shock from all the pounding will mostly be confined in the legs. If your mid section is strong, however, it can absorb some of the impact and lessen the tension in your legs. Accordingly, your legs won't get exhausted too quickly, and there will likely be less ache and soreness at the end of the day.
Some Good Strength Training Exercises for the Mid Section
- Sit Ups - This classic exercise is one of the best workouts for a six-pack abs.
- Knees to Chest on Pull-Up Bar - Grab the bar with your hands hip-width apart. Then curl your body up and try to touch your chest with your knees. It might make you look a little bit like a monkey, and that's exactly why it's fun!
- Twist Crunches - If normal crunches are not challenging enough for you, you can always add a little twist to it. Lie on your back with you knees bent and about hip-width apart. Put your hands beneath your head and interlace your fingers. Use your abdominal muscles to lift your upper body up and twist to the left with your right elbow pointing at your left knee. Slowly lower yourself and repeat on the other side. While doing this exercise, keep your neck relaxed. Don't try to curl your upper body up towards your knees. Instead, imagine your chest and neck being pulled upward by the ceiling.
Strength Training for Runners - Quadriceps
According to Bill Rodgers, a four-time New York City Marathon winner, a distance runner's quadriceps or front thigh muscles should ideally be 25% stronger than their hamstrings. Unfortunately, you can't achieve that just from running. While running tends to overdevelop the hamstrings, it does almost nothing for the quadriceps. In other words, runners who don't do proper strength training for the thighs usually end up with powerful hamstrings and weak quads. As a result, most of the impact shock from running is confined in their lower legs and around the knees instead of being distributed to the whole leg. Besides hindering you from running longer, this muscle imbalance can also lead to chronic knee pain and tendon injuries.
Some Good Strength Training Exercises for The Quads
- Straight Leg Lift - Wrap a weight strap around your ankle. Sit comfortably on a chair, straighten the leg with the weight on it, lift up the leg and slowly lower it down. It's importatnt that you keep the leg straight as you lift and lower it, otherwise this exercise will be relatively useless for the quads. Do this about 12 times, then do the same on the other side.
- Dumbbell Squats - Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Lower your upper body as though you're sitting down on a chair. Keep your back as upright as you can. Stay in the position for a few seconds and then stand up again. Do a set of 12 at a time.
Strength Training for Runners - A Few Things to Remember
- Don't overdo strength training exercises. Two to three times a week should be enough.
- Don't lift weights on consecutive days.
- If possible, do strength training exercises on the days that you have an easy running schedule or the days you don't run.