Although running regularly helps you stay fit, toning exercises enhance your muscle definition and can help shed unwanted flab. And, strength-training exercises — like weightlifting — can even help improve the way you feel during your runs. A study published in a 2008 edition of “Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise” found that runners who strength-trained three times per week for eight weeks showed improvements in the time to exhaustion during their runs. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests you do strength training at least two times per week to reap the many health benefits of toning exercises.
Squats will increase the muscle definition and strength in your legs, which in turn helps improve the way you feel during your runs. You can complete this exercise by keeping your back straight and squatting down until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor. Slowly push your body back up into a standing position. Change things up a bit by alternating between wide and narrow stances while squatting.
Lunges can improve muscle definition in your legs, and they’re easy to do at home after your running workouts. A study published in a 2009 edition of the “Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research” found that lunges can help improve running speed and hamstring strength. You can perform lunges by simply taking a large lunge, or step, forward with one leg until you opposite knee almost touches the floor. Push your body back up into a standing position and repeat. While in a lunge stance, you can also slowly pulse up and down to really feel the burn and maximize muscle definition in your legs.
Muscle-toning upper body exercises — such as biceps, triceps and shoulder workouts — can also help improve your runs, especially while sprinting. You can perform upper-body exercises using just dumbbell weights or your own body weight. Pushups are an example of muscle-toning exercises you can complete using your own body weight. Holding light dumbbell weights, try biceps curls, triceps extensions and kickbacks, front raises, lateral raises and standing shoulder presses. While lying flat on your back, you can use dumbbell weights to complete dumbbell chest presses, similar to a bench press.
Having strong abdominal muscles helps improves your running performance but can also give you that six-pack look most women desire. For best results, perform each abdominal exercise continuously, without resting between sets. Alternate between straight-arm crunches, the bicycle, a jack-knife, oblique crunches, leg raises and oblique leg lifts — which you can perform by lying on your side with your knees slightly bent and lifting your bottom knee to your opposite elbow.
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: Maximal Strength Training Improves Running Economy in Distance Runners
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Summary
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Forward Lunge: A Training Study of Eccentric Exercises of the Lower Limbs
Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics and has extensive experience working as a health writer and health educator. Her articles are published on various health, nutrition and fitness websites.