Mark Plaatjes, running coach and physical therapist in Boulder, Colorado, believes that strong legs are essential when running long distances. Plaatjes says, "When you get tired, your strength will pull you through." Strength training does greatly improve your ability to run long distances. Regular training improves how efficiently the body uses oxygen, which helps to build endurance. Strength also allows you to increase your speed and tackle inclines with ease. Strong quads, in particular, help you run better and protect the knees from injury by stabilizing the joint. To improve your upper legs for running long distances, you should aim to do strength training for a minimum of 15 minutes, two to three times per week.
Begin by warming up your body with a brisk five-minute walk. Following your walk, systematically stretch your body from head to toe using gentle stretches, such as head nods, arm circles, side bends and lunges.
Perform wall sits, or squats, by standing with your back against a wall and your feet about 2 feet from the wall. Space your feet roughly hip-distance apart and bend your knees. Slide your back down the wall, continuing to bend your knees until they are at a 90-degree angle. Ensure that your knees are directly above your ankles and your thighs are parallel to the ground. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds, then return to standing. Repeat this exercise three times.
Sit on a chair with ankle weights on to do bent-leg raises. Straighten one leg and hold it extended in front if you for 60 seconds. Bend the knee and lower it halfway to the ground so it is at a 45-degree angle. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Return to the starting position and rest for one minute. Complete four repetitions per leg.
Sit again on a chair with ankle weights on and position a second chair directly across from you. Extend one leg forward and rest the foot on the second chair to do straight-leg raises. Lift your foot a few inches from the chair, keeping your leg straight, and hold this position for 10 seconds. Repeat this three times per leg at first, working up to nine times per leg.
Perform lying leg lifts by lying on your back with your right leg straight and extended. Bend your left knee and place your left foot firmly on the ground. Contract the muscles of your right thigh to straighten, but not lock, your knee. Raise your right leg until your knees are parallel. Lower your leg to the start. Perform two sets of eight to 12 repetitions on each leg.
Cool down by repeating the stretches from your warm-up slowly, and focus on the muscles being stretched.
- Regular training will help you to develop strength quickly and efficiently.
- Do not lock your knees during these exercises.
- Consult a physician before starting any new fitness program.
An American writer living in the United Kingdom, Christy Mitchinson began writing professionally in 2000, during her career in laboratory science, pathology and research. She has authored training materials, standard operating procedures and patient/clinician information leaflets. Mitchinson is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and creative writing with The Open University.