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Half Marathon Training for New Runners

Running can be a slippery slope. What starts as a hobby – or maybe just a way to lose weight – can quickly blossom into a lifelong passion.

Runners bit by the running bug are soon signing up for longer races, looking for clubs near home, and even buying their first pair of short-shorts.

It’s a wonderful feeling. And it doesn’t matter why you started running in the first place:

  • Maybe you started running because a friend cajoled you into your first fun run…
  • Or maybe you started running for weight loss and got hooked on local races in your city…
  • Or maybe you’re like me, and thought you could high jump in cross country (spoiler: I was so wrong)

After the novelty of racing 5k and 10k’s wear off, you may be left thinking “”Ok, what’s next?”

Before you jump into a marathon, you may want to consider training for a half marathon.

The half marathon is the fastest growing race distance in the United States. According to Running USA, there was a record nearly two million half marathon finishers in 2013.

More runners are flocking to the 13.1 mile race distance for good reason – it’s the perfect blend of endurance and speed. The distance requires new runners to build their fitness substantially, but the training required to run a great half marathon isn’t nearly as grueling as for the marathon.

The half can be completed with just a few “upgrades” to standard 10k training. If you’re ready for a new challenge and want to take the next step with running a longer race, the half marathon is the race for you.

What Makes the Half Marathon Different

Most beginner runners can finish a 5k with just a few weeks of consistent running.

After a 5k gets easier, just another month or two will get you ready to finish a 10k.

But the half marathon is different: at more than double the distance of a 10k, it requires more focus on endurance and long runs than shorter races.

You might have been able to “fake it” through a 10k race, but that will be virtually impossible in a half. Beginner half marathon training should be taken seriously and approached with care because:

  • The body can only store so many calories as available fuel. The half marathon begins to approach the amount of time it takes to deplete those fuel stores (roughly two hours)
  • Muscle fibers become much more fatigued after about 90 minutes of running. Running form degradation is then a big problem at the end of a half marathon
  • Mentally, a half is challenging because it’s a “real” distance event. You’re running for a long time – and mental fatigue can wreak havoc on your mindset

But don’t worry, most new runners can successfully run their first half marathon within 6-9 months of starting to run.

With a focus on two key training components, your first half marathon will be a smash success.

Half Marathon Goal #1: Stay Healthy Long-Term

You can’t train well if you’re injured.

I often tell the runners that I coach that consistent training is the “secret sauce” to successful running. I even have a t-shirt about it!

After weeks and months of diligent training, you’ll be able to run more and faster than you thought possible.

But nothing prevents consistency more than running injuries. They force you to take time off, delaying big gains in fitness and wreaking havoc on motivation.

Fortunately, there are three simple ways you can dramatically cut your risk of getting hurt:

1. “Sandwich” your runs between a dynamic flexibility warm-up and a runner-specific strength routine.

Both the warm-up and the post-run strength workout help build athleticism, strength in the areas that runners need it most, and gradually improve your running efficiency.

2. Run slow on your recovery days. Too many runners push the effort on their easy days, compromising recovery and performance on subsequent priority workouts.

Instead, remember the “3 C’s” of easy running: comfortable, controlled, and conversational. The goal is not to “gain fitness” but instead to maximize recovery and add some extra mileage to your week.

3. Variety reduces repetition – and injuries are technically called repetitive stress injuries.

By rotating 2-3 pairs of running shoes, running a variety of paces throughout your training, getting off the concrete and onto more trails, and introducing dynamic stretching and strength exercises, you’re teaching your body to be more athletic and more injury resilient.

These strategies form the foundation of intelligent running so you can then worry about the actual training you need to run your first half marathon.

Half Marathon Goal #2: Build Endurance

There’s a reason my college cross country coach Jim Butler half-jokingly answers “mileage!” for every problem runners face. It works!

Mileage – or more specifically, more mileage – is the most effective way of building your endurance.

Combined with a regular long run, these two training elements will get you ready to complete 13.1 miles with enough gas left in the tank to finish strong.

Most beginner half marathoners should aim to complete at least 20 miles per week, but preferably 25-30 miles, during their highest volume training weeks. This total workload ensures the body is capable of handling the stress of covering 13.1 miles and the impact forces of running for about two hours.

The long run is also critical – there’s a reason that distance runners say they regularly attend service at the “Church of the Sunday Long Run!”

Before the race, it’s best to run at least 10 miles once or twice to ensure you can reasonably complete a half marathon. Of course, it’s ideal to run more than the race distance to increase your confidence and ensure you can definitely finish the race.

Just remember to only increase your long run by 1 mile every 1-2 weeks. More substantial increases in distance predispose you to injury (and we know how valuable injury prevention efforts are for runners).

The half marathon is a challenging but rewarding event, requiring careful training that focuses on building general endurance.

For beginners, it’s the perfect race to get hooked on distance running. Soon, you might even be targeting a marathon!

Note: a version of this article originally appeared on Competitor here.

If shedding a few pounds is your goal, this 13.1-mile training plan will help you achieve your objective.

Many runners with a weight-loss goal sign up for a race hoping to kill two birds with one stone: Train for a half marathon and shed a few pounds along the way! This sounds great in theory, but it’s tougher in practice than you might think.

While training for a 13.1-mile race can certainly help you reduce stress and gain confidence, it’s actually not the most effective way to lose weight. In fact, the two goals often work at cross purposes: A goal to complete a long-distance race means training your body to be as efficient as possible. You want to burn the least amount of energy you can to feel great at the finish. On the other hand, a weight-loss goal requires you to prevent your body from becoming efficient at exercise. You want to continuously change it up, so you can burn the most amount of energy possible and keep your metabolic furnace burning.

It’s not uncommon to see someone train for a half marathon, running hundreds of miles, while ending up actually maintaining or gaining weight. That’s because their body has become so adept at running, it burns fewer and fewer calories per mile.

However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to have it all! You just need to tailor your training. If you want to reach a healthy weight, it’s important to prioritize that goal. This plan may not guarantee a new personal best, but it will help you lose pounds and get you across a half-marathon finish line feeling strong. Sound good? Let’s do this!

Eat Right

We can’t talk about weight loss without bringing up nutrition. Losing pounds requires maintaining a calorie deficit, which can be tough while you’re packing on the miles. Running far makes your body hungry! A simple solution is to keep track of your intake and shoot for a 500-calorie deficit per day. You can use a tool like Myfitnesspal.com to simplify this process.

Easy ideas…

  • Eat every three hours. This will keep your muscles fueled and energized while keeping your blood sugar stable.
  • Drink half your body weight in ounces of water every day. Staying hydrated is extremely important for your weight-loss efforts.
  • During runs lasting longer than one hour, you will need to carry fluid and fuel with you to keep your blood sugar up. Use one gel or serving of chews (100 calories) per hour.
  • Have a snack or meal within 30 minutes of finishing your workout. This is your “window of opportunity” to start your recovery. Overall, you want to surround your workouts with nutrition by eating a larger percentage of your calories before, during and after your workouts.

Start Your Engine

Because your first priority is weight loss, this plan includes a lot of strength training and interval running. Unlike steady-state running, this is the kind of exercise your body doesn’t adapt to easily. You will execute one long run per week to build up your mileage without incorporating too much volume. For the long run, remember to build up your mileage slowly (at most 10 percent per week) to keep your body healthy and injury-free.

Strength Training

Two days per week, you will focus on strength. Use a full-body program to boost your metabolism. Make the workout short and intense—under an hour is key and keep your rest periods brief. Remember, to get your body to change, you have to perform exercise that it is not used to. Push yourself to lift heavier weights and do more every time.

Sample Strength Workout

Grab some dumbbells. Repeat the circuit 2 to 4 times, completing every exercise before resting for 1 to 3 minutes in between sets. After 4 weeks make sure to increase the weight and/or reps to keep your body changing.

Front Squat

Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell with both hands in front of your body at chest height. Squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor, then return to the starting position and repeat. Keep your knees tracking over your toes and your heels on the ground the entire time. Complete 8 to 10 reps.

Bent-Over Row

Grab two dumbbells. Bend forward until your torso is parallel to the floor, with your back straight and arms hanging down. Pull your shoulder blades back, bending your elbows to row the dumbbells up to your sides. Pause, then return to the starting position. Complete 8 to 10 reps.

Dumbbell Reverse Lunge

Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Keeping your core tight, shift your weight to one foot and step backward with the opposite foot, dropping the back knee into a lunge position. Drive back up through the front heel and return to the start position. Complete 8 to 10 reps on each side.

Dumbbell Push Press

Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand at your shoulders. Bend your legs as if to jump and use that power to drive the weights up overhead, landing in a locked-out position with straight arms and core engaged. Lower the weights carefully. Complete 8 to 10 reps.

Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

Holding two dumbbells, shift your weight to balance on one leg. Bend at the hips as the weight lowers along the front of your legs, feeling a stretch in your hamstrings and hips. Only go as low as you can maintain a neutral spine. Return to the start position. Complete 8 to 10 reps.

Interval Training

The purpose of this workout is to push yourself at an intensity you cannot maintain for longer than a minute or two. This can be done by doing sprints on fl at ground or running hill repeats. If you use a heart-rate monitor, you should reach 85 percent of max or more during the interval. Allow your heart rate to fully recover before performing your next interval. If you don’t have a heart-rate monitor, judge your intensity by how hard you are breathing.

Sample Interval Workout

Warm up for 5 to 10 minutes. Sprint as hard as you can for 30 seconds. Recover by walking or jogging for 30 seconds. Repeat 5 to 10 rounds. Cool down for 5 to 10 minutes.

The Half Marathon Training Plan

Not sure if you can train for a half and reach a healthy weight at the same time? I’m living proof it’s more than possible! Growing up, I was always an overweight child. In my mind, my body wasn’t what a “runner” looked like, so I never tried. I adopted unhealthy habits as a teenager, which led me to a dark place in my 20s.

In 2012, I attended the Rock ‘n’ Roll Vegas Marathon expo for my job. I was shocked: There were all different kinds of people getting ready to race. I realized that a runner’s body type doesn’t exist. I could be one of these runners! Almost immediately, I registered for a half marathon. I started walk/running—building my distance slowly, while incorporating weight lifting, spin classes and yoga.

As I grew stronger, I felt I was pushing through barriers. The moment I crossed that finish line was such a moving experience. Over the course of 18 months and two half marathons, I lost 100 pounds and gained incredible confidence. For the first time in my life, I was able to call myself an athlete. I recognized that I’m here on this earth not to fit in and sit back—but to stand out and change people’s lives for the better. There’s no better feeling in the world.

—Rachel Baer

Is It OK to Lift Heavy During Marathon Training?

When the fall months-aka race season-roll around, runners everywhere start to ramp up their training in preparation for half or full marathons. While the major increase in mileages takes your endurance to the next level, many runners lament the loss of strength training in their regular routine. They worry that if they focus on building muscle they may bulk up too much and lose some of their cardio chops, fear wearing out their legs, or hesitate to spend time hitting the weights when it feels like there are so many miles to run. But runners rejoice: Not only will proper strength training not hurt your marathon training, it will actually help it dramatically, according to Elizabeth Corkum, running coach at Mile High Run Club in New York City.

The two together will make you more fit all-around, improve your muscle capacity, and take you one step closer to a PR. “Ideally, runners will already have a strength training routine in place, prior to upping their mileage for the race, so that it’s not a shock on the cardio and muscular fronts all at once,” explains Corkum. If that’s the case, it will just be a slight modification to your regular plan to make sure it supports the demands of marathon training, she says. So if you know you have a race on deck but haven’t started training, introduce a few new strength workouts to your weekly plan now. (Here’s 6 strength exercises every runner should be doing.)

Corkum points out that it’s critical to keep strength training supportive of your marathon plan, not just taking place alongside it. That means two things: First, your miles still must take priority with strength training sessions being scheduled carefully around them. Second, you need to target the right muscles so that you’re enhancing all the priming from your cardio. “Lower-body work is a must for efficiency and injury prevention, but you won’t get all you need from running alone,” says Corkum. “Runners typically overuse their quads, so give extra love to the glutes and hamstrings with exercises like deadlifts, squats, and lunges with added dumbbell or kettlebell weight.”

Many runners also underestimate the importance of core and upper body strength in their performance. The strongest (and therefore fastest) runners are those that can keep an efficient form throughout the entire race, according to Corkum. That can’t happen if every muscle can’t fire up to power your stride. To torch your core, simple moves like plank variations will sculpt and tighten effectively. (Try our 31-Day Plank Challenge for plenty of ideas.) For upper body, Corkum recommends things like rows and fly or chest presses, since they hit muscles that will help you keep your chest strong and upright even as you fatigue. (These 8 moves are also great for runners.)

Finally, timing is key. To really get the most out of training, try to align your workouts so that you tire yourself out in both modalities one day, and can rest and recover the next, Corkum suggests. The pros call this double-stressing your body. What does that look like? Leg day should be the same day as your harder runs, whether that’s track intervals, tempo runs, hills, or a distance run for time. You’ll be exhausted, which sets you up for a recovery day of easy miles or cross training, plus upper body work. Ideally, you should get 2-3 days of each per week depending on your training plan.

Corkum’s last word of advice: “This will be tough! Your body needs to recover to make sure sleep and rest aren’t compromised.” But don’t worry too much: There are some pretty awesome things that go through your head on marathon-training rest days.

Marathon Weight Training: Stay Strong During Marathon Training

You just made the decision to start training for your very first marathon. Great! Now the planning begins. You need to get your running schedule, your recovery days, and your nutrition plan in place. But don’t forget to schedule time for the weight room!

Weight training is often overlooked as part of marathon training. Some running coaches have historically dismissed it on the grounds that any extra weight or bulk is bad for a runner. But many top runners and coaches have come around to the realization that muscular strength and conditioning are important both for runners’ performance and their overall health.

Running long distances is hard on the body. Many runners begin to lose lean muscle tissue during marathon training, but a good weight training program can help you stay strong throughout your training and more easily transition to your post-marathon workouts.

Do not feel weaker at the end of the race than you were at the start! Incorporate weights and pass the stragglers like they’re standing still.

Lift Around the Long Runs

Of course your highest priority while training for a marathon is running. Time your weight training properly around your runs.

Schedule your weight training on days when you aren’t doing long runs. Running long distances is physically draining, and adding weight training to that burden risks overstressing the body and decreasing your conditioning. Runners who exert too much find themselves dragging and weakening toward the end of their training.

Make sure to preserve a day off to rest and recover between weightlifting sessions. In addition, mix in a few rest days from all workouts. It’s imperative that you give your body the time recover and repair the damage done by intense training.

Remember: You can’t get stronger if you don’t recover.

Training Frequency and Exercise Selection

Preserving lean muscle doesn’t require the same lifting intensity as building bulk. A program where you hit each muscle group twice per week, or at minimum once per week, will suffice.

When training for a marathon, your overall training volume should be kept low, and compound exercises are a must.

Intensive isolation work has the potential to tax your reserves, making it harder to recover and leaves you with less energy to devote to your runs.

As a general rule, limit yourself to two sets of compound exercises per workout.

This will allow you to fit in a complete range of exercises while lowering the chances that you overdo any of them.

The fewer exercises you can do per workout while still hitting all the main muscle groups, the better off you will be.

You’ll want to include leg strengthening movements in your workout plan since these muscles are central to running, but don’t overlook upper body exercises.

Following a workout program that targets all major muscle groups is important in maintaining muscular balance and avoiding injury, but it can help your marathon performance as well.

A strong upper body is essential to maintaining a good arm movement pattern while running, especially once fatigue starts to set in. Furthermore, if your upper body is weak from the start, it’ll be faster to fatigue during your runs, which can impact your focus and concentration.

Marathon Weightlifting Workout

Now that you know the priorities behind your routine, let’s look at a sample workout.

Below are two different workout sessions, each to be performed once throughout the week. Make sure you add a thorough warm-up and cool-down period to each of these sessions in order to avoid injury.

Workout A 1 2 sets, 6-8 reps+ 5 more exercises

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Workout B 1 2 sets, 6-8 reps+ 5 more exercises

  • Instructional Videos
  • Don’t risk doing a workout improperly! Avoid injury and keep your form in check with in-depth instructional videos.

  • How-to Images
  • View our enormous library of workout photos and see exactly how each exercise should be done before you give it a shot.

  • Step-by-Step Instructions
  • Quickly read through our step-by-step directions to ensure you’re doing each workout correctly the first time, every time.

Recovery Techniques to Consider

Take steps to ensure you recover optimally between each session to better prepare yourself for the runs ahead.

Get at least eight hours of sleep each night. If you aren’t sleeping enough, you will not recover. It’s a must.

A post-workout stretching regimen minimizes the inevitable aches and twinges that come with training. Consider taking hot baths or going in for an occasional massage. Both of these are fantastic recovery techniques, and after a long, difficult run, you’ve earned the ease.

Nutrition and Supplementation Tips

You’re going to burn a lot of calories running as much as marathon training requires. Eating properly throughout your training is crucial to keep your energy levels up and maximizing recovery.

In-race nutrition is a science unto itself, but in general, you should prioritize protein and carbs both before and after you run. These are the types of fuel that the body needs most during intensive work, and supplements can help you find them in easily digestible forms.

Consider utilizing whey protein powder, which will quickly help you meet your protein needs. The amino acid glutamine is favored by a broad range of athletes to aid in the recovery and repair process, as are branched-chain amino acids, which can safeguard against lean muscle tissue loss.

Adding Strength Training to a Marathon Training Plan

QUESTION

I recently purchased a training plan for my upcoming marathon. When would be the best days to do core strengthening and/or cross-training? Here is Week 3 of my 12-week program for reference:

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: 4 miles easy
  • Wednesday: 6 miles hills
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: 6 miles easy
  • Saturday: 3 miles easy
  • Sunday: 10 miles LSD (Long Slow Distance)

I would like to add some extra training to the program, but do not know on which days to make the modifications.

HAL’S ANSWER

While I would defer to the author of the particular training plan you purchased, let me make a couple of good guess suggestions:

  1. Add strength training on easy days.
  2. Do so after you run, rather than before.
  3. Cross train on rest days

Given that as your guideline, here is how you might modify Week 3.

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: 4 miles easy + strength
  • Wednesday: 6 miles hills
  • Thursday: Cross train
  • Friday: 6 miles easy + strength
  • Saturday: 3 miles easy
  • Sunday: 10 miles LSD (Long Slow Distance)

I have added strength training on two of the days: Tuesday and Friday. You could strength train a third day on Saturday, although I would prefer you go into the long run somewhat rested. Cross train on Thursday, and while you could do the same on Monday, you might like at least a single day of rest, particularly after that long run. The same general modifications would prevail throughout the program.

How much strength training should you do before a marathon and what sort of exercises should you be focusing on?

These are two very common questions runners have when faced with strength and conditioning work; heading into the gym and strengthening your core and those all-important stabiliser muscles is vital when it comes to getting a marathon PB, but without paying for a PT, structuring every session to maximise on time can be difficult.

To help you prepare for your first or fastest 26.2, Marvin Burton, Head of Fitness at the Anytime Fitness franchise (with over 160 gyms across the UK), has developed this 16-week strength training plan for runners.

How to use the marathon strength-training plan:

The plan is split into four parts, outlined below.

To be clear, this is a strength training plan to be used in conjunction with a running plan.

A 16-week strength training plan for marathon runners:

Weeks 1-5: Strength building phase

The clue is in the title, this is the time to make those muscles strong so that they can cope with and support you as you increase your milage.

The TIPS box

To add a bit more zing to the workout, you can add the “Tip” at the end of each set/the workout. This coverts some sets into supersets (no rest between exercises) and also helps work muscles to fatigue for longer, something that you’ll be doing on race day –

Drop set – On completion of your final set reduce the weight by one weight setting / 10% of the weight and work until failure at a slightly faster tempo. Perform three drops, each time reducing the weight by the same amount.

Rest period – On completion of the last set rest for 10 seconds. Perform 20 reps at a faster pace. Each time you stop, rest for a complete 10 seconds – even if you can only do 1 rep at a time. Complete the 20 reps and always take the 10 second rest.

Weeks 6-10: Hypertrophy and volume phase

What does this mean? Well muscle hypertrophy basically means growth, growth of the muscle fibres through contraction, damage and repair and thus increasing muscle glycogen storage. Improved glycogen storage means more fuel for your muscles, which is exactly what you need when running 26.2 miles.

Weeks 11-14: High Volume and functional strength phase

This is a 20-rep circuit that you should complete five times.

You should have a 60 sec rest at the end of each round (all 6 exercises with no rest).

Weeks 14 – 16: Taper

Time to ease down and this means the strength and conditioning work is done. However, it’s good to keep moving in the taper – read how to manage those final weeks here.

Marvin is an expert personal trainer and has over 20 years’ experience in the fitness industry, previously working for leading names including Wattbike and TRX. He oversees the nationwide fitness offering at Anytime Fitness’ UK clubs, ensuring clubs are offering the best experience for its members.

Most people think that running just requires…running. You lace up your sneakers, you head out the door, and you start moving your legs. And while that’s technically true, if you want to be a better, stronger, faster runner, doing more than just simply logging miles can help get you closer to those goals.

As an avid runner, I know this is true—but I still can’t help falling into the running-is-running camp. I’ve trained for three marathons, and while I’d heard over and over again that strength training could improve my marathon experience, the cross-training days on my training plans were always the easiest workouts for me to skip. I found it was much easier to just walk outside and go for a run then it was to get myself to the gym. As a result, I met each of my marathons with many miles under my belt, but no consistent strength-training work. So I was never completely surprised that by the time I’d get to those later miles in a race, my legs would feel heavy and slow, and despite the fact that my brain wanted to keep going it would feel like my muscles couldn’t continue. So, finally, I decided to find out what kind of strength training could help me become a better runner.

According to research, several types of strength training could be beneficial for runners. One recent meta-analysis published in the journal Sports Medicine, which was the first to review studies on strength training and distance running, found that the addition of two to three heavy resistance training, explosive resistance training, or plyometric (short, fast exercises where your muscles use maximum force to increase power) training sessions per week could improve the performance of middle- and long-distance runners. (The researchers, however, did acknowledge that while in general strength training is probably helpful, some of the evidence is mixed).

Another meta-analysis published in the same journal—this one looking at how strength training impacts running economy, or how much oxygen you use while you run—discovered that heavy weight training and explosive training can have a positive impact. That’s because strength training can improve your maximal strength, or the highest amount of force you can generate, and explosive training can help decrease the amount of energy you use while running.

To figure out how I could turn this information into a helpful strength-training plan, I talked to NYC-based trainer Joe Holder, a Nike Run Coach and coach at S10 Training. To become a faster, more efficient runner, Holder recommends strength training that emphasizes plyometric moves, core control, and eccentric movements, which focus on the lowering (and muscle-lengthening) portion of an exercise. In addition to running economy, “plyometric drills help improve force production,” he explains. When your feet hit and push off the ground with a greater force, that translates to greater velocity—aka, speed. “Strengthening your core control helps with your dynamic stability, which keeps your form intact and helps make you a more efficient runner. And eccentric moves, like when your muscles resist the pull of your weight while lowering into a lunge, prepare your body for the extra force you run faster.” That’s because eccentric movements are great for building muscle size and strength and can potentially help improve force production, according to research.

To help you focus on all three and make your next race your best yet, Holder put together the below 25-minute strength workout for runners.

Here’s how the workout is set up:

The workout is broken up into three groups of moves. The first group focuses on plyometrics and technique improvement, and can be treated as your dynamic warm-up. Perform the number of reps or time indicated for each move, then rest for 30 seconds before completing the number of sets indicated and moving on to the next move. Once you finish, rest for 60 seconds.

The next group focuses on core control and eccentric work. You’ll perform the number of reps or time indicated and rest for 20 seconds before moving onto the next move. Once you finish one set of all the moves, rest for a minute, then repeat the circuit two more times (for a total of three).

The last group is a basic strength circuit. Do the number of reps indicated for each move and then rest for 30 seconds before moving onto the next. Do this final circuit twice to complete your workout.

Part 1: Plyometrics and Technique

  • High knees — 60 seconds
  • Pogo Jumps — 5 sets of 20 seconds (rest 30 to 60 seconds between each set)
  • Power Skips — 3 sets of 30 seconds (rest 30 to 60 seconds between each set)
  • Rest for 60 seconds.

Part 2: Dynamic Core and Eccentric Work
Rest 20 seconds between each set:

  • Overhead Kettlebell Walks — 30 seconds
  • Sprinter Sit-ups — 15 to 30 reps
  • Side Planks With Knee Drives — 10 reps on each side
  • Eccentric-Focused Deadlifts — 10 reps
  • Step-ups With Eccentric Lowering — 8 reps on each side
  • Do three times.

Foundational Strength Training
Rest 30 seconds between each set:

  • Glute Bridges — 20 reps
  • 3-Way Lunge Matrix — 8 reps on each side
  • Bent-over Reverse Flys — 10 reps
  • Do two times.

Here’s how to do the moves:

These Are the 6 Best Strength Exercises for Runners

Strength training plays a key role in your development as a runner, helping to build muscle so that your body can handle the repetitive stress of all that pavement pounding. And the stronger you are, the faster you’ll go. “Running is all about creating force,” explains Tamara Pridgett, a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certified trainer and All-American sprinter, who also recommends sneaking in some core work during your training. “The more force you can generate, when done with proper technique, the faster you’ll run—and to improve the max force we apply to the ground, one must lift weights.” Here, her favorite run-strong moves.

Image zoom Tom Corbett

1. Barbell Squat

These help build strength in your legs and contribute to overall power when running. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, core engaged, and a loaded barbell or a heavy body bar on your back just below your neck (A). Push hips back to lower down into a squat, keeping chest up (B). Drive heels into ground to rise back up to standing. Do 3 or 4 sets of 10 reps.

Image zoom Tom Corbett

2. Box jump

It increases power, which in turn improves your speed. Stand facing box, about 6 to 12 inches away. Bend knees, lowering down into a quarter squat, and swing arms back behind you; keep natural bend in elbows (A). As you drive arms forward, push through feet to jump up onto box, landing softly (B). Stand up, squeezing glutes to come to full hip extension (C). Step back down to start. Do 3 or 4 sets of 10 reps.

Image zoom Tom Corbett

3. Dumbbell Power Clean

This is a holy grail exercise that focuses on both strength and power. Start in a squat with a dumbbell in right hand, arm hanging in front of body, back flat, and core tight (A). Pull right arm up, leading with elbow as the dumbbell scales the body, to come to standing (B). Flip wrist so palm is facing head as you drop back into a squat (C). Do 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps per side.

Image zoom Tom Corbett

4. Kettlebell Suitcase Deadlift

The muscles used in a deadlift—glutes, core, hamstrings, quadriceps, trapezius—are the same ones used when running. Plus, this lift helps generate power and force, which is crucial. Stand with feet hip-width apart, kettlebells on outsides of both feet. Squat down to grip kettlebells (A). Maintaining a neutral spine, stand up, squeezing glutes at the top (B). Slowly and with control, lower back down to start. Do 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps.

Image zoom Tom Corbett

5. Walking Lunge

Lunges simulate ideal running mechanics; if you can master proper form during this exercise, your running form will also improve. Start standing; drive right knee up to 90 degrees, keeping body long and in a straight line, with foot flexed (A). Step forward with right foot, lowering down into a lunge with each leg as close to 90 degrees as possible (B). Squeeze glutes as you step up and past the right leg with the left foot, lowering down into a lunge on the left side (C). Do 3 or 4 sets for 50 meters. Walk back to start for rest, and repeat.

Image zoom Tom Corbett

6. Knee Tuck Jump

This is a great foundation to improve speed and ground reaction; the longer you’re on the ground, the slower you run. Start standing; lower hips, swing arms back (A), and jump up, driving knees up as high as possible without hunching over (B). As soon as feet touch the ground, drive knees back up. Beginner? Try 3 or 4 sets of 10 reps. If you are intermediate or advanced, go for 3 or 4 sets of 30 reps.

Strength and conditioning expert, running coach, and competitive athlete Cody Harter teamed up with MEN’S FITNESS and TIMEX to conquer his current half-marathon time. This is his full 9-week training program-in and out of the gym-to get prepared.

WATCH: A video demo of Cody training at FOCUS NYC >>>

STRENGTH TRAINING WORKOUT 1
Bench Press 4 sets x 10 reps
Pull-Ups 4 sets x 10 reps
Dips 4 sets x 10 reps
Military Press 4 sets x 10 reps
Med Ball Sit-Up 4 sets x 20 reps
Hanging Leg Raise 4 sets x 10 reps

STRENGTH TRAINING WORKOUT 2
Front Squat 4 sets x 10 reps
Elevated Reverse Lunge 4 sets x 10 reps
Hang Cleans 4 sets x 10 reps
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift 4 sets x 10 reps
Sprinter Crunch 4 sets x 20 reps
TRX Jack Knife 4 sets x 10 reps

RUNNING ROUTINE

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
W1 rest 3 mi 3 mi 3 mi rest 3 mi 6 mi
W2 rest 3 mi 3 mi 3 mi rest 3 mi 7 mi
W3 rest * 4 mi 3 mi rest 4 mi 8 mi
W4 rest * 4 mi 3 mi rest 4 mi 9 mi
W5 rest * 5 mi 3 mi rest 5 mi 10 mi
W6 rest * 5 mi 3 mi rest 5 mi 12 mi
W7 rest * 4 mi 3 mi rest 4 mi 8 mi
W8 rest * 3 mi 3 mi rest 3 mi 6 mi
W9 rest 4 mi 3 mi rest rest jog race

Tuesday Notes
Week 3: 3-mile tempo run, 4 sets of 3 minutes at 90% heart rate with 90 seconds as a recovery jog.
Week 4: 800 meter repeats, 6 sets at 7 minute pace with 9 minute pace rest. Rest interval is 2 minutes.
Week 5: 5-mile tempo runs, 4 sets of 5 minutes at 90% heart rate with 90 seconds as easy recovery jog.
Week 6: 1600 meter repeats, 4 sets at 7:30 minute pace with 9 minute pace rest. Rest interval is 2 minutes.
Week 7: 5-mile tempo runs, 4 sets of 5 minute pace at 90% heart rate with 90 seconds recovery jog.
Week 8: 800 meter repeats, 6 sets at 7 minutes pace with 9 minute pace rest. Rest interval is 2 minutes

Additional Notes
Tempo Run: A tempo run is performed as sets and repetitions. The repetitions are the times spent doing a given pace, HR, or perceived exertion. These should increase over the duration of the training plan and the durations are relevant to the length of the planned race. I’m using HR as a marker for these workouts. The purpose of the tempo run is to train the body to maximize oxygen consumption. While training at higher intensities teh body releases lactate and subsequently causes the muscle to fatigue. Incresaing lactate threshold allows the muscles to keep contracting and remain less acific for longer periods of time.
Distance Repeats: 800 meter and 1600 meter repeats are great for pacing. I usually set my paces at or slightly above the goal pace for the given race. The rest paces is also a strong training opportunity. Its important to set a rest pace that allows you to recover but remains fast enough to challenge the cardio respiratory system to slow down while still doing moderate work.

Cody Harter is the Owner of Harter Strength & Conditioning in Brookline, MA. For more training details and photos check out harterstrength.com or follow him on Instagram @codyharter and Facebook @HarterStrength

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Weight Training for Runners: The Complete Guide

Weight training for runners provides the best cross-training possible for any runner.

In fact, I don’t even consider weight lifting cross-training – it’s just part of the training that runners need to do!

But often, we don’t do the right type of strength training. Runners need to lift weights a certain way, prioritizing many elements of strength:

  • Absolute strength (the ability to lift heavier weights)
  • Power (the ability to produce a lot of force quickly)
  • Durability (the ability to withstand running without injury)

And classes like Body Pump, bootcamps, P90X DVD’s, or CrossFit “WOD’s” aren’t going to work well. Not only won’t you develop the strength and power that’s necessary for speed, but you may actually hurt yourself and compromise your running.

No runner wants that!

On this page, you’ll find resources that explain ideal weight training for runners.

For our complete email course on weight lifting, sign up here for your first coaching lesson!

Weight Training for Runners: The Big Picture

When it comes to strength work for runners, there are three major goals:

  • Injury prevention – toughen the connective tissues and strengthen the muscles to improve injury resilience
  • Muscular power – produce force quickly so you can run faster and finish strong with a fast finishing kick
  • Neuromuscular coordination – improve the communication pathways between the brain and muscles for higher running economy, efficiency, and a smooth stride

Most strength training options will help you with the first goal – injury prevention. And that’s a good thing, considering the annual injury rate!

Depending on the source, 35 – 80% of runners will get hurt every single year:

  • 37-56% annual injury rate
  • 20-80% annual injury rate
  • 30-75% annual injury rate

The majority of runners will get injured so it makes sense to prioritize injury prevention in your training. After all, you can’t run fast if you can’t run.

And weight training is one of the most effective method of injury prevention available to runners. Not only that, but most types of weight training for runners will work quite well to reduce injuries.

But the bad news is that most forms of strength training don’t accomplish the goals of power and neuromuscular efficiency – so while you might stay healthy, you won’t improve your performance.

And performance is about speed. It’s about running faster than ever before.

Runner-specific weight training prioritizes performance – so you can set more Personal Bests.

Don’t Make These Weight Lifting Mistakes

Strength Coach Randy Hauer and his athlete, pro runner Maggie Callahan

Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions out there when it comes to weight training for runners.

Lifting can be more technical than running so unless you’re an expert or strength coach, developing the programming you’ll use in the gym can be difficult.

Thankfully, Strength Running has enlisted a top strength coach to clear up any confusion and clarify how runners should lift weights: Randy Hauer.

Randy is a USA Weightlifting National Coach, former record holder, and strength coach to many elite runners in Boulder Colorado. He has several pieces of advice for runners about to start a strength training program.

Weight Training Mistake: Classes, DVDs, and WODs Oh My!

This is the “grab bag” approach to strength training:

  • Going to a Body Pump class a few times per week
  • Relying on P90X, Insanity, or Jillian Michaels DVDs
  • Doing random Runner’s World strength circuits
  • Completing CrossFit WODs every week

Any strength session that includes circuits with little rest (like most fitness classes, DVDs, or CrossFit) is not optimally building strength. Randy adds:

Avoid circuits of several exercises in a row and instead take 1-2 minutes of recovery after each set. Like the talk test in running, you should be able to speak in complete sentences before you begin your next set.

We aren’t doing CrossFit, glycolytic, sweat puddles, and lactic acid bath stuff here. We’re doing real training.

Runners don’t need to structure their lifting workouts this way. It’s too hard! There’s an easier way.

Weight Training Mistake: Lifting Like a Bodybuilder

We’re runner, not bodybuilders. We don’t need to spend hours in the gym 5-6 days per week because we’re not trying to build muscle.

Runners also don’t need to isolate individual body parts. In other words, you don’t need a “legs day” followed by a “bis and tris day” – that’ll make developing runner-specific power and strength much more difficult.

Randy agrees:

Focus on compound, “larger” standing movements (running is done standing, right?).

Don’t lift distinct body parts on certain days (like chest day or back day, etc.). As a runner, you don’t care about “bis and tris.” You care about how strong you are.

The body isn’t a cobbled together bunch of parts that work separately, but rather it functions as a unit. Athletes should train it as a unit.

Randy teaches us that runners need to train their entire body – and it doesn’t take hours in the gym.

Weight Training Mistake: Relying on Stability

Too many runners have fallen in love with stability training with Bosu balls, wobble boards, and other stability tools. We’ve become enamored with “functional stability.”

But if you’re only focusing on stability training, you’re missing the #1 goal of weight training for runners: the ability to produce force.

Randy summarizes this well:

Avoid wobble boards, bosu, or swiss balls. They have their place in rehab situations, but really don’t serve any useful function when learning to produce force.

The goal is STRENGTH – or the ability to produce a lot of force against the ground. This makes you run faster!

This becomes clear when you think deeply about the goal of strength training.

If you can’t produce as much force on an unstable surface, you won’t create the stimulus needed for the neuromuscular adaptations that increase power and speed.

In our free strength ecourse, you’ll discover even more mistakes to avoid (and exactly what to do in the gym to prioritize strength, power, and injury prevention).

Does Weight Training for Runners Work?

Here’s Kirsten – you can read her case study here

The evidence is clear that weight training is critical for running performance and injury prevention. But how does it work in real life?

Let’s look at some specific examples.

Kirsten wasn’t sure how to balance lifting and running. But after using our weight training for runners guidance, she improved her half marathon by 29 minutes (at 6,000 feet altitude)!

James hit a performance plateau as a competitive runner and wasn’t improving. So he gave weightlifting a try – and ran Personal Bests in the 5k, 10k, and half marathon!

Kevin was a marathoner who didn’t know how to start with strength training. After getting step by step instructions, he made the commitment. And he gained muscle, lost fat, set a half marathon and marathon PR!

Weight Training Gear and Tools

Thankfully, you don’t need a fully stocked home gym to lift well. Most gym memberships will give you everything you need for proper weight training.

But it does make sense to have some simple tools available at home if you can’t make it to the gym for strength training.

Foam Roller: A simple self-massage tool, it can help increase flexibility, break up scar tissue, reduce myofascial adhesions, and loosen you up before running. Use it once a week or up to every day!

Medicine Ball: Perfect for beginner or advanced runners, a medicine ball can be used for a variety of strength exercises. They’re inexpensive and you can purchase more than one for different levels of difficulty.

I recommend the brand Valeo as they’re attractive, have a great rubber grip, and don’t cost too much.

Thera-band: A Thera-band is simply an exercise band that can make some body-weight exercises more challenging by increasing the resistance. It’s portable and perfect for traveling.

Q&A with Coach on Weight Lifting

I know you probably have a lot of questions when it comes to weight lifting for runners. And I want to introduce you to top coaches and elite runners who have answers.

Maggie Callahan: “Strength Training is Non-Negotiable”

Maggie is an elite runner for Brad Hudson’s Hudson Elite training team in Boulder, Colorado. A former Pac-10 steeplechase champion, Maggie has been lifting consistency for years and now considers weight training for runners “non-negotiable.”

We recorded a podcast with Maggie that goes over:

  • Her ability to recover quickly is directly tied to lifting (and how good she feels on a daily basis)
  • How strength training reestablished some of her lost athleticism from her high school years as a 4-sport athlete
  • What she would say to women who think weight lifting at the gym might be intimidating

If you’re not sure if weightlifting will help your running, you won’t want to miss this podcast episode.

Randy Hauer: “Do not focus on endurance when lifting”

Randy is a USA Weightlifting National coach and trains multiple elite and collegiate distance runners in the gym.

He knows exactly what type of weight training is appropriate for runners.

We had Randy on the podcast to clarify all things lifting:

  • HIIT / CrossFit training for runners
  • When you should lift (Before or after running? Off days? Hard days?)
  • Soreness from lifting weights
  • Trail runners and lifting
  • Mobility and movement fluency
  • Is serious weight training just for “fast” runners?
  • Is it right for older runners 50+? What about high school aged kids?

This top coach and professional athlete are here to walk you through how to lift well if you’re a runner.

And we have even more detailed info in our free strength course here.

Weightlifting Q&A

You might have questions. Let’s dive in.

I’m an older runner. Is weightlifting for me?

Absolutely! In fact, as you get older (particularly after age 40), strength training becomes even more important than when you were younger.

Not only will a regular weight training habit help you maintain your fitness and prevent injury, but help you maintain your muscle mass. For older runners, this should be a big goal (after age 40, you lose about 1% of your muscle mass per year).

For more detail, see how to combat the effects of aging here.

Advanced lifts like the deadlift are intimidating. Any suggestions?

I’ll let strength coach Tony Gentilcore take this question. He’s “the deadlift whisperer” and recognizes the importance of these strength movements for us endurance athletes.

In fact, he likes to point out that we’re already deadlifting all day every day! Every time we pick up a child or a bag of groceries from the floor, we’re performing a deadlift. Dozens of deadlifts per day can become risky if our form is poor or we don’t have a lot of strength.

So start deadlifting and it’ll not only help your running, but your parenting and grocery shopping skills!

I do a lot of bodyweight exercises. Is that enough?

It’s certainly a good place to start. And if the choice is “no strength training” or “bodyweight strength training” you should definitely choose the latter!

But it would be irresponsible not to note that while bodyweight exercises are good, weightlifting is better. An ideal strength program includes a balance of both to prioritize both your ability to stay healthy and prevent injuries, but also your ability to produce force and power.

Use progression with bodyweight exercises until you’re ready for weight training in the gym. You’ll be a much better runner for it.

Strength Training Exclusive Resources

Do you want to get stronger? Improve your body composition?

Maybe you’re a “pure runner” who only cares about speed, injury prevention, and a fast finishing kick.

Despite these very different training goals, weight training is how they’re accomplished. Lifting will:

  • Help you stay healthy by preventing injuries that result from weak muscles, tendons, or ligaments
  • Develop muscular power that enables speed and a fast finishing kick
  • Build neuromuscular coordination that improves running economy (efficiency – so you can run faster with less effort)

But if you don’t want to take my word for it, don’t! Trust science:

  • Strength training helps treat IT Band Syndrome (source)
  • Women with runner’s knee have weaker hips than healthy runners (source – confirmed here)
  • Resistance training improves trained runner’s economy by up to 8% (source)
  • Explosive strength training makes your 5k faster by improved economy and muscle power (source)
  • Weight lifting improves performance (speed), running economy, and muscle power (source)

It’s exciting how beneficial weight training can be for runners. If you’re convinced, I invite you to take the next step.

Sign up here for our complimentary email series on effective weight training for runners. You’ll learn:

  • How to improve the “force production” of every stride
  • Why “lift heavy” is good advice – but incomplete
  • Why you should never (ever, ever) lift for endurance
  • How the right strength work prevents running injuries
  • How to lift for explosivity (in just 2 workouts per week)

Register here and the first lesson will hit your inbox in just a few minutes.

Strength Training For Runners: How To Do It Right

This August, Dicharry released his first book, Anatomy for Runners, which packs a biomechanic textbook’s worth of analysis into a slim, heavily illustrated volume priced lower than many bestsellers.

Dicharry spoke with Bodybuilding.com about the importance of weight training, the risks of bad posture, and the ways that bad running form can indicate larger physical limitations. He also offered up a four-part plan to prepare runners for the stresses of the road or trail.

Q. Look around online—or in the gym—and it’s pretty easy to notice a long-simmering antagonism between many runners and weightlifters. Runners tend to avoid the weight room like it’s on fire, and weightlifters view running as some type of catabolic disaster. Are these people wrong to be so suspicious of one another’s activities?

Oh, for sure. People are entitled to their opinions, but the old school idea that the two are mutually exclusive is dead wrong. There are well-documented studies showing that weightlifting is tremendously beneficial for running in many ways that decrease injury risk and improve performance.

So I tell runners, “Get in the weight room.” It is obviously more important at different times of the year and depending on how old you are, but it is hugely important for runners to lift.

What about from the other side? What can good-form running offer someone who is a more serious weightlifter?

Well, that is a little different. Let’s be clear here, if your goal is to gain as much muscle mass as possible, you are not looking to have a bunch of cardio during the week. So you need to take a look at your goals.

If you are looking for well-rounded health and fitness, then yeah, cardio training is incredibly effective. Put in the right amount at the right time. The time changes each season and even each day. You don’t want to do a big cardio workout right after you lift, but I think doing something before or on a day off isn’t going to hurt anything.

A major theme in your book is addressing anatomical imbalances through proper training before these imbalances become symptomatic—i.e. injuries. How soon should a runner get in the weight room?

Pretty quickly. I know that if Average Joe walks off the street and walks in a weight room and sees some guy at a squat rack putting up 400 pounds—well, that is sort of intimidating. They realize they are not going to walk in there and do that tomorrow. It’s not going to happen.

But let’s reverse the screw here and say that Average Joe walks into a running shop and sees some guy running a 10k. For some reason running just seems more accessible, easier to get into—and by nature it is. It is interesting to me that runners will just buy a pair of shoes and start running.

They think, “Oh, I just run.” But if you see someone squatting 400 pounds, there is this preconception that this person has put in a lot of work to get where they are. They started low and worked their way up. That same notion gets lost in running.

The message I try to get across in the book is that just running is not going to help you reach your potential. Try to figure out what else is a limiting factor. A lot of this comes down to the fact that most people who take up running haven’t done a lot of athletic pursuits in their past, so they lack a lot of the specific muscular control of folks do who do lots of different things. The more different things you do, the more of an athlete you inherently are. So the question here is: How can what you do complement your running?

That is the big take-home message here: If you spend time in the weight room, make it count. Let’s make the things that we do specific. Being able to squat 400 pounds does not help you as a runner, but being able to maintain form with a little bit less weight, well, that actually does have a lot of carryover.

One of my favorite descriptions in the book that you use of contemporary running is that it is “a crazy type of badge-of-courage sport in which you have to pound yourself into shape day in and day out until you emerge on top.” Do you feel like that is getting better at all?

No, I don’t. People still just want to put in more, more, more. Like anything, people always say, “What is the elite person doing? They must be doing the best.” But all of the elite training programs are the same. There isn’t much variation.

But for some reason, the average runner has this idea that they have to get their miles per week up at all costs. That is not the be-all end-all. There are a lot of other things you can do.

By the end of the book I felt like I kind of had an assignment: Build a strong core, and build a strong butt. If all I did was focus on those two things, how much would that help me in athletics and life?

Tremendously, and here is the reason why: As you run faster, the amount of time you are in contact with the ground actually decreases. But the flip side of that is that when you have less time in contact with the ground, it is actually harder to run. So your body has to be able to supply more force to the ground quickly.

Here is why strength training helps runners: You have to be able to put out more force in a shorter amount of time to run faster. But if all you do is run, you never develop the true high-end strength and high-power demands that you need to do that. So yes, if you develop a strong core, you keep things stable. And if you have good glutes, you can propel yourself off the ground.

Walking is different than running. When you walk, most of the power from push-off actually comes from your calf.

When you run that isn’t true. When you run, most of the power from push-off comes from your hips, so we’re talking about true hip extension. If you improve your core strength and improve your hip extension strength, you are well on your way to becoming a more efficient runner.

You were also pretty clear that building a strong core for running and other athletics isn’t about doing crunches.

The definition of core stability is how well you can stabilize your upper body on your lower body. That definition can factor in if you are doing some type of Russian twists. It is looking at how much rotation you’ve got while you are able to keep your trunk stable on the other planes.

So for running, obviously you are looking at how your upper body moves reciprocally to your lower body. It operates differently, and it is supposed to. It is supposed to counterbalance your lower body. But what we are looking at is: How stable do you keep that link between your upper and lower body?

That is really, really important. When you allow your low back to pitch forward or arch, you inhibit those core muscles working, and when your core muscles can’t work, your hips basically shut off too.

The way you describe it, it sounds like a postural problem in addition to a strength problem. How much do postural issues set people back when they start out an athletic pursuit?

Enormously. There is a classic physical therapist named Vladimir Janda who defined this thing called “lower quarter crossed syndrome.” In the book, I eluded to it as “adolescent texting syndrome.” It is basically the same thing. What it says is when you adopt a position where you stand in poor posture, you actually inhibit your ability to activate your hips, your muscles inside of your shin, and also your feet. That is not just a running issue; that is an everything issue.

So it is basically saying, look, if you are going to spend all this time in the weight room training specific muscles but stand this way, you are only going to be able to fire about 50-60 percent of your muscle fibers instead of 100 percent. That is already starting off at a “D.” That is not good.

Posture is absolutely huge, and posture is not just something we practice when running or in the weight room. This is something that people need to pay attention to just walking into their kitchen or at work and sitting all day long. You hear about people sitting on balls instead of on chairs; it’s a great idea. The more different ways to keep your posture in check, the better things carry over.

While reading Anatomy for Runners, I got out an old dowel and I started squatting and doing the “Chair of Death” in the living room. How important are non-weight-bearing exercises like that in muscular and athletic development?

They are really important. It is not so much about the strength aspects, but rather the muscle memory. Talking about the Chair of Death specifically, I have a little movement screen I use, and almost every runner who fails the Chair of Death overstrides. It’s interesting to me that the people who fail that exercise are the ones who try to contact the ground too far in front of them.

And interestingly enough, you tell that person, “OK, try to strike closer to you, and try to push off more behind you?”—they simply can’t. They just don’t get it. That’s not a running problem. That’s a problem with them.

The Chair of Death isn’t just an exercise; it’s a way of looking at how you move and helping folks figure out, “Here is what I have to do.” Practicing an exercise like that builds that skill set so that when you go run, you know what to tap into. You’re not trying to search and think, “Wait a second, this is too many things to think about at once.”

Some really painful shin splints from overstriding could help to bring that lesson home.

Yeah, exactly. One of the points I try to make in the book is that running form is tremendously important. But equally important are those ingredients that you as a runner bring to the table.

Jay Dicharry’s Strength Training Workout For Runners

Runners need four critical things: postural alignment, specific stabilization, high strength, and the ability to produce this strength quickly.

Life is busy, and you want to make the most of your time. What’s the most specific way to improve your running? Try these out below.

How often? Well, balance and proprioception are best done frequently, in small doses throughout the day. Typically people have tremendous improvements in control and coordination somewhere between a few minutes to two weeks.

For everything else, follow the old adage: once per week to maintain, twice per week to get improvement, three times per week for a bonus dose—especially in the offseason, when you should be taking some time to work on your limitations, and running is not really the priority. Caring for “the temple” is!

Postural Exercise

1. Vertical Compression Test

The goal here is to find a neutral spine when standing, walking, running, and all sitting and standing lifting postures. It’s more of a skill than an exercise, but it’s the foundation for everything else.

Have a partner stand behind you with their hands on your shoulders. Have them press down firmly on your shoulders. If the pressure causes your spine to buckle or move into a more arched position, or to move from an even weight distribution throughout your foot, then your posture needs work.

To work toward correcting this, use proper posture all day, every day, and practice single-leg balance whenever possible.

2. Push-up

3 sets, 10-20 reps

Do these on an unstable surface, because that instability forces body awareness. These can be done in a plank position with your feet on the floor and hands either on a Swiss ball or on a sling like the TRX or JungleGym XT.

The key here is to ensure that the thumb is pointing forward, as this encourages you to externally rotate the shoulders and retract the shoulder blades.

3. Swiss Ball Russian Twist

3 sets, 10-14 reps

Purpose is to improve upper body on lower body stabilization while putting emphasis on a neutral spine. Place your hands on a bench and the ball under your feet in a plank position.

Lift one foot off the ball. Rotate it under and across your body and back, looking out for any tightness or arch in lower back. Each leg swing counts as 1 rep.

4. Pull-up

Build up to 3-sets, 10 reps

While most folks view pull-ups as strength building—and they are—your lats and lower traps are large muscles that also assist you in keeping your shoulder blades back for better posture. The lats also influence stabilization of the spine and pelvis. No kipping allowed here!

Do these from a dead hang with a wide grip. If you need to use an elastic strap or weight assist machine, no problem. Just don’t cheat and swing. Keep shoulder blades retracted throughout the movement. When you can do sets of 10, add weight to your torso via a vest or strap.

Printable PDF

Stabilization

These exercises are meant to improve neuromuscular coordination, but they also help develop tri-planar hip stabilization, which is critical for runners. Aim for 2-3 sets of 10-20 reps of each.

1. Clamshells

100 daily

Research has shown that there are fewer differences between male and female runners that most of us have been told. This being said, the one thing that has stood out is that women typically have weaker hip abduction strength. Clamshells are a great way to isolate the lateral glutes.

Begin by lying on your side with your torso and pelvis both perpendicular to the ground. Next, straighten the spine. Squeeze your glutes tight like you have a quarter stuck between your butt cheeks.

With your feet resting on each other, lift only the knee up until it is level with the hip. Lower the knee down, keeping the glute contracted the entire time.

2. Rotisserie Chicken

3 sets, 10 reps

Use a sling or place a Swiss ball in a corner for additional stability. Lie with one leg on the ball, and one slightly off the ball. Place your hands on your hips and bridge up so the body is straight. As if you are a chicken on a spit, rotate the opposite side up, back to center, and down.

The key here is rotating from the hip, making sure to have absolutely no arch or tightness in the back. If any tightness is felt in the low back, drop the pelvis lower and try to rotate again.

3. Side-Lying Hip Bridge

3 sets, 10 reps

Use a chair, bench, or Swiss ball. Push your bottom foot into the ball so that the entire body rises off the floor while keeping the spine stable.

4. Side-lying Hip Adduction

3 sets, 10 reps

While lying on your side with the top leg up on a Swiss ball, chair, or bench, pull the foot in towards midline so that the entire side of the body rises up off the floor. Make sure the spine stays straight and stable.

Printable PDF

Strength

The goal is to build strength, so we are looking for 3-4 sets of 5-8 reps.

1. Romanian Deadlift

3-4 sets of 5-8 reps

Use a bar, dowel, or broomstick to ensure that you maintain a neutral spine throughout the motion. Keep it in contact with your head, back, and tailbone throughout the movement.

After you’ve practiced the movement correctly until it feels natural, and you can tell when you are cheating, then you are finally ready to add weight. In time, you can work toward single-leg deadlifts.

2. Swiss Ball Triad

3-4 sets of 5-8 reps

These three movements teach you to maintain a neutral spine while working into hip extension.

  • Phase 1: Lie on your back with your legs up on the ball. While keeping your core muscles tight, squeeze an imaginary quarter between your butt cheeks and raise your hips off the floor. Lower down while keeping the butt tight throughout the range. Control your motion; don’t just flop up and down using momentum.
  • Phase 2: Extend your legs straight out with the ball underneath your feet. Keep the butt tight, bridge up and down.
  • Phase 3: Just like Phase 2, except that when you are up, curl the bar toward your butt while keeping the hips high.

3. Bulgarian Split Squat

3-4 sets of 5-8 reps

Put back foot on bench or in TRX. Keep your front leg 100 percent vertical. Add kettlebells or a barbell for additional weight.

4. Back Squat

3-4 sets of 5-8 reps

Ensure correct form; initiate movement by moving hips back and hinging from the hips, not moving knees forward. If help with form is needed, practice by doing air squats holding a dowel on your back, keeping in contact with your tailbone, your back, and the middle of your head. Keep your knees pressed against the front of a chair to keep them from wandering forward.

Printable PDF

Power

The key here is building explosive strength, so do these quickly!

1. Ninja Squat Jumps

3 sets, 10 reps max, 1-2 days per week

Your goal here is to land as softly as possible. At first, jump onto a box and step down. Then, progress to jumping up and down. The height of the box should start at mid-shin and build up to mid-to-upper thigh.

2. Box Drop Jumps

3 sets, 5 reps (Advanced Only)

Start on box, jump down landing softly, and then up as quickly as possible

3. 4-Square Jumps

3 sets, 30 seconds

You can do these on a tile floor to simulate the grid, or simply eyeball landmarks on the ground for spatial awareness. Jump to the corner of each box as quickly as possible.

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4. Lateral Jump

2-4 sets, 6 reps

Jumping sideways is a great way to recruit your lateral hip stabilizers. Jump as far laterally as possible. You should be able to measure it in feet, not in inches!

5. Medicine Ball Rotational Throws

2 sets, 6 reps per side

Standing on one leg, rotate torso powerfully and throw ball as forceful as possible against the wall.

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Weight training for marathon

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