‘Cardio is King’ days are over. Especially for women 45 and older. Strength training is essential in maintaining bone density and muscle mass – both, of which, are key to long-term healthy bodies.
If you’re a runner and believe that strength training will bulk you up and slow you down; think again. Injury prevention and increases in performance are real benefits directly related to strength training. You will also gain lean body mass. Who doesn’t want more of that?
Focusing on runner-specific strength exercises improves structural fitness. What does that mean? It means that your bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons will better withstand the impact of running. In addition, you can improve your speed (if that’s important to you) by adding heavy resistance exercises to the mix.
“Strength training can improve your ability to keep those legs moving.”
Plyometrics, such as dumbbell jump squats, or jumps for distance can shave seconds off your time in a race. The surge in muscle power comes in handy when your finish time is important.
Speed is important, if you’re a racer, but so is stamina. Strength training can improve your ability to keep those legs moving. Some studies have suggested up to an eight percent improvement.
Last, and not least, having stronger muscles and joints drastically reduces risk and severity of injuries. By definition, if your body is stronger you will have less loading force thrust upon it when you run.
Exercises All Runners Should Do:
Compound Movements: Runners should train movements, not muscles—so stick to compound, multi-joint exercises (and make sure your form is correct!). Some of the classics include deadlifts, squats, pull-ups, bench press, and step-ups onto an elevated platform. These exercises target functional movements that we do in real life: bending down, pushing and pulling things, and picking things up.
Bodyweight Exercises: Lunges, planks, push-ups, side planks, bird-dogs, and side leg lifts. All of these build the core strength you need to prevent injuries and get stronger. Really want to splurge? Buy a TRX Suspension Training home system. While I am not a runner per se, I do love the TRX for bodyweight strength training. Whether you use a suspension system or not doesn’t really matter. You can get the benefit from your own bodyweight regardless.
Hip Strengtheners: Weak hips are a major area of concern for runners; especially those who have to sit for long periods every day. The ITB Rehab Routine, a series of exercises that treats and prevents IT band injuries can be a great add to your repertoire. It focuses on hip and glute strength—two of the most important stabilizing muscles that are used while running. Lastly, Foam rolling is another great option for muscle recovery and injury prevention.