Strength training is a crucial aspect of a runner’s program. Whether you have Olympic goals or are working towards you first 5K, a strength program has a place in your weekly routine. Brittany Moran, Jess O’Connell and Dylan Wykes are all accomplished runners and knowledgable about the benefits of a strength routine.
RELATED: The Shakeout Podcast: Strength training for runners, from beginners to Olympians
Moran is a 2:36 marathoner who’s also a chiropractor out of The Runner’s Academy in Toronto. On top of being a talented marathoner, Moran is a Hyland’s ambassador. Hyland’s Leg Cramp Pills bring runners relief from leg, calf and foot cramps–all of which can interfere with training and competing. Runners want to be their best on race day and one aspect of that is working strength training into their routine. Another aspect of performing at your best is having the necessary tools to succeed, like Hyland’s cramp remedy.
O’Connell also has an impressive running resume. The runner holds a 5,000m personal best of 15:06.44 and is a 2016 Olympian. She is currently training for the 2020 Olympics and has her own coaching business, Grit, on the side. Wykes is a 2012 Olympian in the marathon and the 2019 Canadian 10K champion. The runner is also the co-founder of Mile2Marathon, one of the most successful running clubs in Canada.
Together, this group of three makes up a pretty killer set of running advisors and they’ve broken down the most important (no fuss) strength exercises that runners can do anywhere.
Why strength training?
O’Connell says that runners love running, which can become a problem. She explains, “Runners love running but a lot of them would be well served by adding a strength program. Running is a repetitive motion that follows the path of least resistance, but the path of least resistance isn’t necessarily the best path. Becoming stronger means you can recruit muscles more efficiently which will speed you up and make you less injury prone.”
Every runner should be doing an activation routine. These are quick neuromusclar routines (about five minutes long) done before any run or weight session that help warm the runner up and get them ready to workout. O’Connell swears by activation and always does 10 reps of each exercise below before she heads out the door. She explains, “With these exercises I’m not looking to build strength, I’m only looking to warm myself up. But, take your time here and be mindful of what you’re trying to activate. Know the intent of the exercise.”
Dead bug position 1
Dead bug position 2
Dead bug position 3
The key to the dead bug is to keep your back as flat as possible. Ideally, you can feel your low back touching the ground through the entire movement. Start at neutral and then extend your opposite arm and opposite leg.
Hip raises position 1
Hip raises position 2
Start with your back on the ground, knees bent and push your hips towards the sky. Hold there for one to two seconds and lower.
Leg raises position 1
Leg raises position 2
This exercise works your glutes, so make sure they feel engaged through this movement. Start on your side and lift your leg before slowly lowering.
Exercises for marathoners
Wykes explains that a strength program is really helpful to marathoners at the end of their race. “Our strength program focuses on developing good function in the muscles. We do things that help you fire well while you’re running. We want you to get the most out of each muscle.”
But the runner also acknowledges that strength work needs to be functional. Wykes recommends keeping your routine simple, 30 minutes maximum, and making sure everything in your strength routine can be done at home.
The aim of monster walks is to engage your glutes. Start with your legs shoulder width apart in squat position and walk horizontally.
With squats be sure not to let your knees flare and focus on moving your butt back as opposed to down.
Exercises to improve your running gait
Moran reminds runners that the important areas to strength train are their core and single-leg stability. She says that these exercises don’t need to be fancy, but they do need to be intentional. She recommends working this routine into your post-run plan at least a couple times a week.
Front and side plank
The plank works your core. Be sure to keep your back level and core engaged through the entire 30 second hold.
The bird dog focuses on back strength, because don’t forget, your core includes your back.
Single-leg dead lift
Also known as the hip hinge, this exercises is good for you hamstrings, glutes and overall stability. Start in your a marching A position and then lower your upper body, while raising your back leg. With the marching A, you want to focus on having your toe pointed toward the sky, strong posture through your upper body and an engaged core.
Be sure to check out this week’s episode of the Shakeout Podcast where these runners describe their experience with strength training. Brought to you by Hyland’s Leg Cramp Pills.