There’s plenty of evidence that runners who supplement their running with strength work are stronger and less injury-prone. Strengthening your core, glutes and back also protects bone density as we age, and can even make you faster, by giving you more power per stride. And strength work doesn’t have to be boring–on the contrary, the break from running, and that oomph you get from pushing and pulling, and lifting your own limbs can bring a new sense of joy to your running.
Moreover, you don’t have to shell out for a gym membership or personal training to add strength to your routine. Though some folks enjoy the vibe of a gym and the chance to use equipment they don’t have at home, there are plenty of bodyweight exercises you can do in your family room, basement or back yard that don’t require equipment. Do this routine twice a week on lighter running (or no-running) days and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you notice the benefits, and how much fun you can have mixing up your routine. Save time by doing these exercises as a circuit and limiting recovery between sets to 30-45 seconds. And definitely add your favourite music.
Strengthen your core with planks
A strong core will help you maintain your form after fatigue sets in during a long race or training run. Planks can be done on your elbows or with arms fully extended. Start by holding for 30 seconds, and gradually build up to one minute or longer. Do one front/forward plank followed by side planks (one on each side)–that’s one set. (As with the front plank, side planks can be done with the forearm flat on the floor or mat, or with arm extended.)
Side planks may take a bit of practice to get your balance.
Strengthen your glutes with squats
Squats are very effective for building glute strength, which will help you go up hills. With your feet planted slightly wider than shoulder width apart, go up and down in a controlled fashion, keeping your back as upright as possible, as if you were lowering yourself into a chair. Do eight to ten reps. Once you’re comfortable with the exercise you can add handweights or a kettlebell, held close to your chest, for greater intensity. Start with 7-10 lbs.
Strengthen your lower back with Supermans (Supermen?)
A strong back will give you better posture, better running form, and help you maintain your form when fatigued. To strengthen your lower back muscles, lie on your stomach with your arms extended in front of you (a gym mat is useful to protect your groin). If you haven’t done this exercise before, start by lifting your head, one arm and the opposite leg off the ground, keeping your leg relatively straight, to the count of three and lower back down. Work up to being able to raise both arms and legs at the same time (like Superman flying through the air). You’ll definitely feel this one in your lower back the next day, so go slow at first.