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5 key strength exercises for new runners

Exercises to help keep new runners injury-free

A 2019 study found that 48 per cent of first-time marathoners experienced a minor injury, with nearly 10 per cent experiencing a major injury. With the global pandemic continuing to shutter gyms and fitness centres in many parts of the country, a lot of new runners are hitting the streets, track and trails. If you’ve found yourself either running for the first time or dusting off some old shoes that haven’t been used in a while, adding a strength routine is a great way to avoid the common pitfalls that come from increasing mileage. 

Jessica O’Connell is an Olympian in the 5,000m and coach with GRIT Athletic Coaching. O’Connell thinks that new runners especially can benefit from the quick routine below, and that doing it a few times a week will keep them moving well. She recommends that runners do two to three reps of these exercises. 

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Dead Bug

This exercise is key for core activation. Lie on your back with your arms and legs perpendicular. Push your lower back into the ground using your core, and keep it pressed into the ground the whole time. Slowly extend the opposite arm and leg straight, then return to centre and repeat on the other side.
Reps: 10

Glute bridge

Lie on your back with your knees bent and engage the core and glutes to lift hips until they are in line with your shoulders and knees (try to lift with your glutes, not your hamstrings). Return to the floor and repeat. If this becomes too easy, try it single-legged by raising one foot a few inches off the ground.

Reps: 10


With your heels flat on the ground and feet shoulder-width apart and pointing forward, sink down into a squat position as low as you can. O’Connell says to bend like you’re sitting into a chair (you can even use a chair to perfect your form). To make this exercise harder, add weight by holding a light dumbbell. If you want it to be even more difficult, try a single-leg squat. 
Reps: 10

Single-leg deadlift

This exercise is great for both balance and strength. Begin standing upright and lift one leg off the floor. Bend at your hips and lean forward so that your body is in a t-position with your torso leaning forward and leg extending backward. It’s fine if your standing leg bends just a little. Slowly return to a standing position and repeat. 

Reps: 10

4-way lunge

Begin in a standing position and lunge forward with your right leg, then return to the starting position. A good lunge should be deep, with your front knee bent at a 90-degree angle. Next, lunge sideways with the right leg, then return to starting position. Next, lunge backward with the right leg, then return to starting position. Finally, lunge behind your standing leg in a curtsey position, then return to starting. This is one round, and runners should aim for five rounds on the same leg, then switch. You can progress to holding some weight if your bodyweight alone becomes too easy.
Reps: five for each leg

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