A Strength Training Plan that Will Make you a Better Runner
If you have your eyes set on a race PR, speed work and long runs are hopefully part of your running vocabulary. The one thing you might not be as fluent in is strength training. Most runners spend all their time amassing a training log full of miles, but forget to spend 15-20 extra minutes a few times a week building their core.
This past year, I set a PR’s in both the marathon and half marathon. During both of those training cycles however, I wasn’t 100%. I have nagging injuries that I felt were holding me back. I’ve never been good at doing core work on a regular basis, but my PT and coach says I need to. I barely have time to log my miles, so it’s easy to skip this.
In February I began to focus on more core work, and this summer, I decided to really get serious. Knowing how important core strength is to avoiding injuries and improving running efficiency, I have been looking for a way to consistently build marathon specific strength.
If my audacious goal is to be realized, I need to do something different.
Why Runners Should Strength Train
It’s a fact that your aerobic capacity develops quicker than your muscular system. Your heart and lungs will allow you to run faster and farther before your tendons, muscles, bones and ligaments are ready for it.
This is why good training programs ramp your mileage up slowly. A REALLY good training program will also include general and race specific strength training to reach those goals, hopefully injury free.
Strength training for runners involves strengthening those 15 sexy muscles in your abs, hips, lower back, glutes and pelvis. It’s not a quick process, but takes patience and a lot of discipline. If you make it a regular part of your training routine, you’ll probably become faster, and reduce injury.
In a recent piece on Active.com by Mckenzie Lobby, she cites research that has shown an increase in 5k times in as little as six weeks of intense, focused core and strength training in runners. Sweet!
What I’m Doing Different
I’ve been reading articles from RunnersConnect for a few years now, and have always found them to be well researched and founded on solid training principles. They have a strength training plan for runners that was exactly what I was looking for.
While you can find lots of free programs out there, I splurged and bought this $79 one because it is highly focused and specific to the marathon. I’ve been consistently following it all summer, and am please with the results thus far.
What is Strength Training for Runners?
This program was developed by RunnersConnect founder, Jeff Gaudette, a coach and former professional runner who has spent many years working with runners of all abilities.
The program consists of 9 different race specific strength training “prescriptions” from the 5k to the marathon. There’s also a plan for beginners, weight loss, general fitness and those transitioning to minimalist running. Each of these includes 12 different routines that each contain 10 – 12 exercises. It’s a lot to keep track of, but not so bad once you get into it.
Each plan is 16 weeks long, broken up into four sections (if you’re less than 16 weeks from your race, you can modify by shortening each section by a week) and focuses on a different aspect of your strength training. There is a beginner and experienced track, ranging from 2 – 5 days of strength training per week.
The first workout of this week is the “Atlas – Basic Core routine” and consists of two sets of the following.
- Prone or planks – 60 seconds
- Side/lateral holds – 60 seconds
- Supine – 60 seconds
- Prone knee bent – 60 seconds
- Donkey kicks – 15-25 repetitions each leg
- Fire hydrant – 15-25 repetitions each leg
- Hurdles – 15-25 repetitions each leg
- Opposite arm/leg – 15-25 repetitions each leg
- Double eagles – 15-25 repetitions each leg
By the end, I’m toast. Here’s another sample.
What Makes this Program Different?
According to Gaudette, in the Strength Training for Runners package,
We show you exactly which days to strength train, how to progress based on race goals, and provide the most optimal and specific exercises for injury-prevention and running performance.
The exercises focus on building strength in both running and non-running specific muscles. This not only leads to you becoming a stronger runner, but a stronger overall athlete.
What I appreciate about this program is that in addition to being highly structured, they tell you which muscle groups you’re working, the value to you as a runner of those muscles, video and pictorial demonstrations to make sure you’re doing them right, and very specific instructions. I need that!
After several weeks of doing this, I can tell that I’m able to hold certain exercises longer, and do a few more reps on others.
In the interest of full disclosure, RunnersConnect has an affiliate program, meaning, if you chose to purchase it using this link, we get a very small commission (at no cost to you). Because of that, I wanted to share a few of the areas where the program could be improved, to help you decide if this is for you.
What Could be Better
- Low video quality. At $79, don’t expect a P90X level video production. While they won’t win any Oscars, they are extremely straight forward and show you exactly how to properly do the exercises.
- Learning Curve. As mentioned above, there are 12 routines with 10 – 12 exercises in each. Because this is so much more robust than a set of crunches, sit-ups or planks, you’ll need to learn them. There’s no magic pill for becoming a stronger runner (unfortunately) so expect to spend 20 – 30 minutes reading about the program and routines before you begin.
- Lots of Organization. In addition to learning the exercises, you need to download the different routines and have them ready to go on the days when you’re assigned to do them. In the future, it would be great if they could put this into an app of some kind. What I do is schedule them in on my training log, then I’ve saved each workout in Evernote. I simply pull that up on my phone and I can do it anywhere. No need to print anything!
Your Strength Training
If you want to become a stronger runner, there aren’t any short cuts.
Do you do strength training as part of your regular training? What do you do and have you found it to be effective?