Strength training for runners: 3 moves to help you hit your stride

Are you ready to rev up your running routine? With warmer weather only a few weeks away, it’s time to thaw out those freezer-burnt muscles, dust off your sneakers, and prepare your body for the trails.

If your goal is to improve your stride this season, you’ll need to do more than just jog. Implementing a comprehensive conditioning circuit helps engage the muscle groups responsible for a faster pace, while also improving muscle endurance and post-run recovery.

If you want to be a strong runner, you must identify your weaknesses first.

The following exercises are designed to help you go the distance. Repeat the circuit below three to five times.

Warm-up
Perform 50 jumping jacks. Doing so will flood the muscles with oxygen and nutrient-rich blood that is necessary for loose and limber muscle fibers.

Glute grinder
Glute and hip health is essential for successful runners. Think of these muscles and joints as the engine that powers your legs through the finish line. Basic exercises that mimic the natural motion of running, such as lunges, are best for lower-body strength training.

  • Stand tall with feet shoulder-width apart. Holding a free weight, stretch your arms out in front of your chest. Take a step forward with your right foot, keeping your bodyweight in your right heel. Your right knee should be aligned above your ankle and left hip stacked above your left knee.
  • Twist your torso by rotating the free weight 90 degrees to the right. Hold for one breath then return it to the front of your body. Step your feet back into the starting stance.
  • Complete 10-12 repetitions on each leg.

Plank twists
Running is a high-impact exercise that puts repetitive stress on the bones and joints. When the core muscles surrounding the spine are weak, the lower back is susceptible to running-related aches and pains. Planks are beneficial for fortifying these muscles.

A twist is incorporated into this exercise to teach the arms and torso how to work together in a controlled way. When running, the arms and legs unite to keep the body balanced. It is important to understand the relationship between your arms and torso in order to move more efficiently and avoid injuries.

  • Start on your side with your bodyweight propped up on your right forearm. Keep your right shoulder aligned with your right elbow. Engage your core muscles and lift your hips off the floor to form a straight line from your head to your feet.
  • Once you feel balanced, take your left arm and tuck it beneath the right side of your torso, as if you were reaching for something behind you. Hold for one breath then rotate your torso back to the starting position, extending your left arm to the sky.
  • Complete 10 repetitions on each side.

Box jumps
The body has two types of muscle fibers: slow-twitch and fast-twitch. A common training mistake made by runners is engaging solely in slow-twitch exercises, such as going for a long run several times a week. But if you want to get faster, you need to incorporate fast-twitch exercises into your training, such as box jumps. Doing so enhances oxygen efficiency, which helps extend muscle life and fight fatigue, as well as your foot’s ability to push off the pavement faster.

If you are new to explosive jumps, start with a low platform.  For safety, always use a sturdy platform and avoid stackable steps.

  • With feet shoulder-width apart, stand several paces away from the platform. Hinge back at your hips, swinging your arms for momentum as you jump up onto the box. Try to land softly on the platform to reduce the impact on your joints.
  • Step down one leg at a time — or softly jump back down — to the starting position.
  • Continue this sequence for 45-60 seconds.

Ashley B. Greenblatt is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach. To learn more, visit ashleyblakefitness.com.