I’m sure everyone of you has heard something like: “Running and strength training go together like bacon and ice cream“ and ‘’Runners should stay far away from every gym!’’ How about if I tell you that, for most of you, strength training is the perfect supplement to take your running to the next level? I should probably note that the following tips are not right for marathon or high endurance folks, but for regular runners.
Running and strength training can complement one another and help you unlock your full potential. The good news: you don’t need a gym membership. All the weight you’re going to need is supplied by your own body and things you can find in many parks.
Why Weight Training is Good for Runners
The muscle support
Progressing on your running activities can mean different things. This could be going faster or for longer distances. No matter what your goal is, challenging your body with a greater burden will put it under much more stress than before. For example, as you run faster, the ground contact of your feet will become shorter but at the same time more intense. Consequently your body has to provide more energy in a shorter time. And your body will need a greater deal of muscle work to support your movements. Trying to achieve that just by exercising your muscles through running won‘t get the job done. The same applies to longer distance runs. Insufficiently trained muscles won’t be able to support your body for the entire activity time.
A well-trained body is usually a balanced body. Everything in your body is connected, therefore every muscle has its antagonist. Imbalances result in a wrong movement, which, over time, can lead to injury. With strength training those malpositions can be resolved and you are unlikely to risk injury. Several studies have proven that the right exercises can lower the probability of injury by a multiple.
A motivational push
Don’t underestimate this one! Challenging your body with strength training can boost your ego big time. No matter if you’re up to a short sprint or running up a hill. You know you can do it and nobody can stop you!
What Part of Your Body to Focus on
One thing is for sure: well trained core muscles are the key to your success. When running, a lot of the power to push you of the ground also comes from the hips and butt. Including those body parts into your strength training routine will help you stabilize your upper body, which is vital for the correct movements of your legs. In addition, add some leg training plus one or two exercises for the upper body to round up your workout.
I think bodyweight exercises are very effective and convenient, especially to support my runs. Why? Well: you can do them almost anywhere; instead of isolating a certain muscle they combine a lot of different body parts; and many different variation seem to make them different and exciting each time.
Here are some of my favorite strength exercises
- Pull-ups: this classic exercise works your back, shoulders and arms. Just make sure not to swing! If you can’t do pull-ups on your own, ask for support by a friend.
- Push-ups: besides strengthening the chest, push-ups are great for stabilizing your entire body. Make sure to keep your butt up and your core tight!
- Crunches: so many different ways to do them, perfect for your abs. Do them on a bench, on the ground, or even lifting up your legs pointing towards the sky while hanging on a pull-up bar or tree.
- Burpees: this ultimate exercise works your entire body but watch out, they can get challenging after a few repetitions.
- Box Jumps: great to train the overall coordination of your lower and upper body. For this exercise you can jump on almost anything that is not slippery. Try to start the jump with an explosive movement.
- Squats: for sure one of the best exercises to work most of your leg muscles. Squats can be done with a barbell, or if you’re in a park or forest, grab the next big branch (or little log!) and put it on your shoulders.
And no gym is needed for these! Do pull ups on playgrounds, jump on trash cans to train your legs, grab a trunk of a tree for bicep curls and do crunches on a bench. There is nothing you can‘t do, go crazy! Make this part of a small run and set up your own strength training circuit. You’ll be surprised how much fun this can be!
Tracking Your Strength Training Activities
We know you like tracking your runs, but you can also use Runkeeper.com to keep tabs on your lifting sessions. Gym Hero is an awesome iPhone app that helps you track your individual freestyle workouts. Are the “trash can box jump” and “park bench curls” part of your routine? No problem, Gym Hero has you covered. You can tailor it to fit your to workout routines, exercises, weights and repetitions. We focus on fast and simple tracking so you can fully concentrate on your activities. There are also some graphs and other cool statistics to follow your improvements over time. Did I mention it integrates nicely with Runkeeper, AND it’s free?
Did this get you excited? Let‘s start your first workout soon, and let us and the Runkeeper team know how you lift and run!