Believe it or not, training for running a race involves more than putting miles on your running shoes. Strength training is an important part of race training. Integrating strength training into your running routine will help prevent injury, build up supporting muscles, and increase speed over time.
Running activates numerous muscles throughout the body, but one of the most important areas is the “core.” The core includes the abs, back, and hips. According to Runner’s World, core strength improves running performance and reduces risk of injury. I can personally vouch for the importance of core training too. Last year, when I didn’t include core training in my preparation for a race, I experienced breathing issues, as well as the much-feared “side stitch.” Avoid the mistake I made and be sure to train your core for better running performance.
One great move to increase ab strength:
Planking. Planks can be done from the forearms or hands in a basic push-up position, as well as on each side of the body to target your obliques. Hold a front plank and side planks for 30 seconds each (or no longer than you can maintain perfect form) for severals set. Or test your strength to see how long you can hold the plank (with proper form).
Some moves to increase lower back strength:
If you’re a runner, it’s crucial that you give special attention to strengthening your lower back. I suffered a back injury a couple of years ago, which had to do with the fact that all I was doing in my training was running. Lower back pain is common today, a product of sitting in the same position for long periods at a desk, or at the opposite spectrum, from standing in the same position all day. The mild back pain caused by lack of movement can generally be relieved with strength training. (Be sure to check with your doctor if you have moderate to severe lower back pain before attempting any of these exercises.)
Bridges. Lie on your back with feet on the floor. Tighten abs and glutes to raise your body off of the floor towards the ceiling. You can do a number of reps in a rhythmic up/down motion, or hold the position for a period of time. Do 15-20 reps or one 30 second interval for a set.
Back extension. This move can be done with an exercise ball or with weights. Lie face down on an exercise ball, with hands behind your head and feet against a sturdy object (such as your couch or a wall). Squeeze your glutes and raise yourself slightly off the ball until your body forms a straight line. Hold the raised position for 30 seconds or do 10-15 repetitions for a set.
(See links below for more lower back exercises.)
Here are some moves to incorporate to develop supporting or stabilizing muscles in your legs:
You’d be surprised at how many runners neglect training their legs, since they figure they are getting their leg workout in when they run. Yet, running without strength training can cause weaknesses and imbalances in the leg muscles. When these supporting or stabilizing leg muscles are weak, incurring an injury while training or racing is more likely.
Single leg squats. This move focuses on building stability in each leg. Stand in a squat position, but place more weight on one side and only keep the toe of the other foot on the ground. Squat down, with back straight and focus on the one leg going down and up. Do 10-15 of these on each side for a set.
Dead lifts. This move simultaneously works multiple leg and core muscles, including the hamstrings, glutes, quads, and back muscles. With legs slightly bent (to prevent injury) stand with feet at a hips-width apart, free weights or bar in front of you (with bar centered over the top of your feet). Keeping your back straight, bend slowly at the waist until your weights or bar come to your knees (or wherever you feel comfortable). Focus on feeling an equal stretch in your left and right hamstring. Do 15-20 reps for a set. Read this article for more on dead lifts.
You can use all of the moves in this article for a quick strength training routine to support your running, doing 2-3 sets of each. Remember, focus on form over quantity for the best results!
Do you integrate strength training while training for a race?
Have you ever been injured while training for a race? How are you healing and/or preventing this from happening again?
Sources: Runner’s World article: Strength Training; Runner’s World article: The Core of the Matter; Diary of a Semi-Health Nut: 10 Moves for a Strong Lower Back.
Originally posted 2013-09-24 15:38:07.