As a regular runner, you already know that your running habit is good for your heart, lungs and waistline. But, as good as running is, a balanced workout routine needs more than just cardio. Adding some full-body workouts to your weekly schedule can help you round out your fitness regime and become a stronger runner.
Running uses some muscles more than others, which can create muscular imbalances. These imbalances increase your risk of suffering injuries and even postural abnormalities. For example, your legs work very hard when running, but your core, back and arms do not. Strengthen and condition these otherwise-unworked muscles by lifting weights. A whole-body workout is very time-efficient, which means you can get away with two or three weight-training sessions a week and still have plenty of time for your running. In addition, regular weight training will increase your bone mass, strengthen your joints, improve your posture and give you more strength for running faster or up steep hills.
Before lifting weights, prepare your muscles and joints by warming up properly. Spend a few minutes performing some light cardio and then stretch and mobilize your major muscles and joints. Once you are ready, perform two to four sets of 15 to 20 repetitions of your chosen exercises. The last couple of reps should be hard but still completed in good form. Rest for 30 to 90 seconds between sets -- shorter rests make for a greater endurance challenge.
To work all of your major muscles efficiently, select compound or multi-joint exercises such as lunges, squats, pushups, lat pulldowns, shoulder presses and bent-over rows. Compound exercises work your big muscles while also working your smaller muscles by default. Where possible, select single-limb exercises as running is a one-leg-at-a-time sport, so it makes sense to replicate this in your workouts. Leg presses work both legs at the same time in a very stable environment, so it does not transfer very well to running. High step-ups or lunges while holding dumbbells, however, are much more running-specific.
To prevent one exercise detrimentally affecting the next one in your program, pay attention to the order of your workout. Use a simple legs, push, pull, legs, push, pull format to avoid overlapping exercises. Finish your workout with one or two core exercises such as planks, side planks, stability ball crunches or cable Russian twists to work your midsection. At the end of your workout, perform a few more minutes of light cardio and then stretch all of your major muscles to prevent tightness and minimize post-workout muscle soreness.
Lifting weights is generally a safe activity, but only if you take the necessary precautions. Always work out using good technique and only increase your weights if you can perform the exercise without jerking or bouncing the weight up. If you are performing free-weight exercises, always work out with a spotter who can help you if you get into trouble and are unable to complete a repetition safely. Finally, get expert instruction from a personal trainer or strength-training coach if you are unsure how to perform a particular exercise. Incorrect exercise technique can result in injury.
Patrick Dale is an experienced writer who has written for a plethora of international publications. A lecturer and trainer of trainers, he is a contributor to "Ultra-FIT" magazine and has been involved in fitness for more than 22 years. He authored the books "Military Fitness", "Live Long, Live Strong" and "No Gym? No Problem!" and served in the Royal Marines for five years.