All the evidence, both anecdotal and research-based, suggests runners who avoid strength training are making a mistake. Our tissues have the “capacity” to handle a certain level of work before fatigue. “Load” is the amount of stress you put on your body through training, balanced out by recovery through rest and nutrition. Combined, capacity and load limits determine how resilient a runner’s tissues are. When those limits are low, the odds for injury go up and performance can go down. This is where strength training comes in!
Running coach and elite runner, Jason Fitzgerald, is a big fan of pumping some iron, and learned about strength training the hard way. “My decision to roughly triple the amount of strength training in my own program came as a result of figuring out the causes of injuries and speaking with a lot of physical therapists,” he says. “Even though I was ‘strong’ in that I could run 90 miles per week, run a sub-five-minute mile, or qualify for Boston with a big cushion, I was weak in terms of muscular strength.”
Fitzgerald weaknesses fell in areas that typically plague runners, his hip and glute muscles. He knew he had to change his mindset around strength work. “Just as importantly as needing to get stronger, I needed to realize that strength training is not cross-training for runners. It’s just part of the normal training workload for runners who are interested in chasing their potential.”
Fitzgerald recommends strength training to all of his clients. “Ideally, every run is followed by 10 to 20 minutes of runner-specific strength or core work.”
It’s interesting that Fitzgerald qualifies strength training as part of a runners normal training and NOT as cross training. This is because when we do strength exercises that are specific to a runners needs, we add to our running prowess. Cross training, cycling or swimming, while a great addition to our activity routine, is not running specific so while it will help us build strength and endurance, it does not benefit us directly as runners. In fact, Fitzgerald urges runners to do less cross training and more strength work specific to runners. He goes as far to tell his runners to skip any high impact classes like body pump and kick boxing as these activities require us to move outside the “running plane” and can cause injuries.
I’m not saying you should go out and cancel your other classes or stop cross training. Just be aware of the types of movements you are doing and be careful with exercises that require high impact movements that are not specific to meeting your running goals.
When Fitzgerald first began his strength training regimen, he wanted to dial in to a runner’s needs. After only a few weeks he said, “I started with body weight exercises and progressed from there. All of my pain went away after adding in the strength work.”
If you suffer from niggles here and there and aren’t being consistent about your strength training, you’re neglecting part of your training. Strength work is not cross training…it’s an important part of a runner’s normal routine!
Day 13 Plan:
- Food Challenge – Meatless Mondays
- Quick Core Workout (Morning preferably)
- Coffee Break Workout (Short breaks throughout the day)
- Day 13 Exercises
- Bonus Option #1 – Clam Video Workout (only 2.5 minutes per leg!)
- Bonus Option #2 – Nike Runner’s World Dumbbell Routine (see steps and video below)
Food Challenge: Meatless Mondays – No meat today! How can you be creative with your meals to avoid eating meat on meatless Mondays?
Quick Core Workout: Would love to see this getting done first thing in the morning to wake us up and get our body moving!
Coffee Break Workout: Great for a midday stretch out, especially if you do a lot of sitting for work!
Day 13 Exercises: 3 sets of 10 (“how to” videos below)
- Hip Extension with Stability Ball
- Birg Dog
- Kickback with Resistance Band
- Dumbbell Clocker Shoulder Raise
- Forearm Planks – 3 x :45 (1 each round)
Bonus Option #1 – Clam Video Workout: This routine is runner specific because it targets our hips and glutes with exercises recommended by physical therapists for weak hips and glutes!
Bonus Option #2 – Nike Runner’s World Dumbbell Routine for Runners: We don’t have any days dedicated to arm strength this month but it is still important for our running and our overall health to work on strength in our arms and back. The Nike Runners’ World arm routine takes about 3 minutes and all you need is a small pair of dumbbells OR your running shoes. The steps are listed below but you can also watch the video here. The arm portion is the 2nd half of this workout so you will need to skip through the first portion. You may remember this from doing it a few months ago but if not, please check out the video above and follow along. Super quick yet super effective burn and all we need to build runner specific arm strength!
- Side Arm Raise – 5x each – Palms facing front, palms facing in towards body, palms facing back
- V-Raise – 5x each – Palms facing front, palms facing in, palms facing back
- Front Raise (arms parallel) – 5x each – Palms front, palms in, palms back
- Around the World – 5x each – Palms facing in, pinkies touching, thumbs touching
- Overhead Press – 5x each – Thumbs facing in, palms facing in, pinkies facing in
- Scarecrows – 5x each – Palms facing towards front of body, palms facing body, palms facing out to the side
- Standing Dumbbell Flys – 5x each – Palms out, Palms down, palms facing up
- Small Circles – 5x each – Palms facing down, palms facing out, palms facing back
Day 13 “how to” videos:
Hip Extension with Stability Ball – Lye on your back (supine) with your heels on a stability ball hands flat on the floor at your sides. Digging your heels into the ball lift your hips off the ground until they are in line with your torso and legs. Hold for a count and return to the starting position.
Bird Dog – You can do this exercises by just holding the position and coming back to the start or touching your elbow to your knee as you see in the video.
Kickback with Resistance Band – Think of a standing donkey kick just with a resistance band to make it a little more challenging.
Dumbbell Clocker: Hold light dumbbells. Imagining that you’re at the center of a clock facing 12, raise your arms until they’re parallel to the ground at clock position 12, then lower. Repeat at 1 and 11, 2 and 10, and 3 and 9. Perform this sequence 4 more times.
Forearm Planks – Keep working with the basic plank from your knees until you are strong enough to come up onto your feet then hold and repeat!