As a runner, you know strength training is important. Not only does it give you extra energy and speed for the road, but it helps prevent pesky, painful running injuries that result from muscle weaknesses. The great curves you get are another bonus. For middle-distance runners -- those who run races between 800 and 3,000 meters -- improving a current strength routine or starting one can make all the difference in your training and performance. It's just about knowing the right muscles to work and what moves to make.
Why Strength Training?
According to ASICS, runners need strength training for three main reasons. First, it helps them improve performance by adding power, speed and endurance. Second, it helps correct muscle imbalances, which are responsible for most of the common running injuries such as tendinitis, IT Band syndrome and runner’s knee. Finally, it helps runners maintain proper form throughout their race. It’s one thing to start out strong in a race and quite another to finish the same way. By incorporating strength training into your workout schedule, you’ll be able to stay strong and healthy from starting line to finish line.
Get to the Core
It's not optional -- runners have to have a strong core. The abs, hips, glutes and back are what keeps your body working properly during periods of repetitive motion. If your core is weak, you could fall prey to overuse injuries and unnecessary aches and pains. Instead of putting yourself at risk for these runner woes, focus on developing the muscles in your core by performing simple stability exercises such as bridges and planks. You’ll increase your strength while correcting those imbalances at the same time.
Just because middle-distance running is classified as a sprint, it still involves the need for speed and a great ending kick, not to mention great turnover with the legs. By developing the muscles in your legs, including your quads, hamstrings and calves, you’ll be able to run with greater power and surge when you need to. According to the website Competitor, along with core work, the three most important strength exercises for runners are body-weight squats, single-leg deadlifts and single-leg squats. Throw in a set of calf raises and you’ll be all set!
Above the Waist
The arms are responsible for counterbalancing the motion of your legs, which helps you conserve energy. Some of the world’s top runners have well-developed arms, chests and backs; by targeting the upper body with a few moves, you can get great results for yourself. You don’t have to bulk up to massive sizes in order to reap the benefits. In fact, you can get most of the necessary exercises in without using weights at all. Try chair dips, pushups and resistance-band rows to start and soon you’ll feel yourself running with better efficiency and greater form.
After graduating from the University of Kansas with a bachelor's degree in sports information, Jill Lee served for 10 years as a magazine editor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Also a published author, Lee now works as a professional writer and editor focusing on fitness, sports and careers.