Going for a run is one of the most popular forms of exercise there is. It’s free, it doesn’t technically require training to get started (though, good technique is going to be useful) and it doesn’t ask for equipment beyond activewear and a pair of sneakers.
Running is a great way to improve your cardio fitness, and it’s also particularly effective in assisting with weight loss. But if you’re just starting out it can be kind of intimidating. It also takes a lot of hard work to improve your ability.
Many people who are new to running shy away from it because of those very reasons, but I’m here to tell you that there are ways to improve your running ability that don’t involve more running. Instead, you should be picking up a set of weights.
Ben Lucas from Flow Athletic explained to me over email that there’s a “huge misconception” around the benefits of strength training – particularly when it comes to general fitness.
“Everyone should do some form of strength training, especially as we get older,” he explained.
Lucas explained that while this kind of training “was made famous by those looking to achieve a specific type of physique,” it has a place in everyone’s workout routine because of its effectiveness in building healthy muscle, improving bone density and accelerating the metabolism.
“Look at Michael Jordan in The Last Dance for example,” Lucas shared.
“He started using weights to get stronger and bigger so he would have more chance of winning and performing better against the other teams.”
When it comes to running specifically, strength training is your friend for a few reasons:
Lucas explained that running is pretty tough on the body “as you are essentially standing on one leg at a time” which “requires core strength and good posture”. You’re also using your legs to launch yourself forward, so “building up your strength in the relevant muscles is a great way to improve your running ability,” he said.
Which exercises are best for runners?
In terms of the kinds of strength training you should be using, Lucas shared that one-leg exercises is a solid starting point. That way you can build strength evenly and avoid favouring one side of the body.
Pistol squats, one leg deadlifts and walking lunges are all going to be good options for that reason. When it comes to developing your core, Lucas suggested focusing on ab exercises and for your posture, he recommended options like seated rows and push-ups.
“I also like to do some ankle work as your ankles and achilles can be a problem area when it comes to injury for runners. For this I would do weighted leg press but do some ankle pulses in there too,” he said.
The benefit here is not only building strength in the parts of your body you put to work while running, but depending on the way you approach weights training, you may also be improving your cardio fitness along the way.
Lucas shared that, “especially if you are doing light weights with more reps” you can absolutely fall into the cardio zone; improving your ability further. Weighted HIIT sessions are particularly good for this, as they “definitely fall under the cardio banner as well as the strength one”.
Convinced yet? If you’d like to kick off your marriage of strength and cardio workouts, Lucas shared an example of a complete workout for you. Check it out below:
Start with a warm up of a 400m jog and some mobility work ie. slow walking lunges, hip swings, leg swings, arm stretches from side to side, sweeping your arms from side to side. Any of those sorts of movements that get the body moving and warm.
Then move on to:
2 rounds 12 reps
- Push Ups
- Walking lunges 12 reps a side
- One leg deadlift 12 reps a side
- 150m on the rowing machine
Before smashing out:
1 rounds, 12 reps
- Lateral lungs- 12 reps a side
- Push ups
- TRX pistol squats one leg at a time- 12 reps a side
- 150m row on the rowing machine
You’ll be running like a pro in no time.