Don’t Forget to Add These Exercises to Your Training
So, you’re thinking of starting to run or doing a Couch to 5k program. Wonderful! There are a lot of articles on the internet that outline a running program to get you started. However, what I’ve noticed about theses programs is that strength training seems to be left out from the basic protocol.
Running and jogging are quite demanding on the body, especially when you’re new to jogging. This is why the Couch to 5k running programs are so good; they start off with a light running volume and slowly increase. But absent any strengthening exercises for the legs and core, you may be setting yourself up for injury.
How Strength Training Helps Running
Strengthening your muscles will help protect your joints by strengthening the tendons around the joints. Increasing the the muscle and tendon strength around the joints means you’re less like to have any injury crop up. Strength training can also help you feel less tired while running because stronger muscles can make each step easier to do.
As an added bonus, strength training can also help make you run quicker. When you muscles are stronger, each stride propels your farther…which gets you to the destination quicker. Even if you’re not focused on the time, it’s always nice to be able to run faster.
Strength Training Exercises
The best strength training solution for running is a full-body, functional strength workout. A more realistic place to start, however, is with the four exercises below–especially if you are currently not incorporating strength training into your training program.
Split Squat or a Reverse Lunge
Running is a unilateral exercise. This means you are performing the movement on one leg at a time. Believe it of not, when you are jogging or running you are spending all that time on one leg, then the other.
This is why a split squat, and then progressing to a reverse lunge, is a great place to start. Both of these exercises focus on strengthening your quads, one of the prime movers in running. These two movements are also a great way actively stretch the quad and hip flexors, which tend to tighten up when running.
Once you progress to the reverse lunge, the movement make it a bit more running-specific because now you are spending time on one leg in a similar movement pattern. I chose the reverse lunge because it tends to be less impact than a forward lunge.
Start with body weight with both exercises and progress to holding weights or other weighted items. Perform 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps.
Single Leg Deadlift
The single leg deadlift is an excellent exercise for running, because–again–both involve spending a lot of time on one leg. This exercise is also helps to improve your hip and ankle stability-two things that are really important for running. Lastly, the single leg deadlift develops strength in your glutes, which help the leg to extend behind you.
Begin with body weight before progressing to holding a weight in one and then both hands. If you are finding balance is an issue, perform these close to a wall or use a foam roller or other surface as a balance assist. Do 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps.
A strong core is really important for any training program. In running, a strong core will help keep your low back from hurting (most of the time).
Adding the dead bug to your training regimen not only helps strengthen your core and keep injury at bay, but it uses that contralateral opposite arm/leg motion, just like running!
The biggest thing you want to focus on while performing this exercise is moving slowly while keeping your low back in contact with the floor. Perform 2-3 sets and 5-6 reps on each side.
Having a strong upper body is also a key component to your running program. Your arms help propel you forward. Strengthening your arms and the chest, back and shoulder muscles are important for running efficiently. Also, this adds a bit of upper body work to balance our your strength training program.
I often describe a push-up as a plank with an elbow bend. What I mean by this is that you want to find and maintain an amazing plank position throughout the push-up movement. Your goal is to keep the ribs in alignment with the hips at all times.
We start everyone in an elevated, or incline, push-up position. This is because to maintain that core position throughout the movement is actually quite hard. But it’s necessary.
Additional cues not found in this video:
Exhale–ribs knit together to align ribs and hips. Have a soft bend in your knees and tuck the butt under slightly. Lastly, squeeze a yoga block between the knees.
Start on an elevated surface and as you gain strength, slowly lower yourself little-by-little closer to the floor. Don’t move to a lower surface until you can perform all 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps with good form. Moving ahead too quickly only hurts you in the end. So take your time and get really good at the place you’re at. In the end it means you have a stronger core and upper body.
And that’s a win, win for you.
Next month I’ll share what I think are some great warm-up exercises for you to add to your warm-up routine to help prepare you for the running ahead.