Strength Training for Beginner Runners
This is the fourth post in my Running Tips for Beginners series. This particular post is great for seasoned runners who are looking to start strength training in addition to beginning runners.
Today I’m really excited to share an interview with my friend Cori from She’s Going the Distance.
I’ve known Cori since high school, and yes she has always been this smart, pretty and cool! Today she’s going to share her best strength training for beginner runner tips (which also work for experienced runners just getting into lifting).
Cori has a list of credentials a mile long. Here are just a few:
-NCSF Certified Personal Trainer
-USA Weightlifting Sports Performance Coach
-Functional Movement Systems Certified
-TRX and TRX RIP Trainer Certified
-Boston Qualified marathon runner
She is definitely well qualified to share training advice. Let’s dive into the Q&A!
1. Now that I’ve started running, what are some basic strength training exercises I should do to make my legs stronger?
YAY for beginning to run and for wanting to strength train!
Training your legs and body with workouts other than running will make you a much stronger runner. And who doesn’t want to be a strong runner? Strong legs help crush those hills and help you become a faster more efficient runner.
Start with the basics: Squats, Lunges, Box Step Ups or find stairs to climb!
2. Are there specific things I should do to make my core stronger, and why do I need a strong core?
Core exercises are extremely important for runners because the core stabilizes your spine and helps keep you injury free.
If your core (which includes abdominals, lower back, glutes & hips) are weak you can develop all kinds of imbalances that lead to injuries or pain.
An easy way to strengthen your core on a daily basis is to stand up and sit down with better posture. Make sure your chest is up, shoulder blades are down and back (imagine putting them in your back pockets), belly button pulled into your spine and your glutes are tight. It might be a little uncomfortable at first, but doing this posture check multiple times a day can make a difference.
A few traditional exercises you can do to strengthen the core are to squat & press a medicine ball or weight overhead or perform “wood chops” (squat and raise a weight diagonally).
Full body movements work the core better than crunches! Another good exercise is the “superman” which you lay flat on your stomach, then raise and lower your arms & legs at the same time.
3. Do I need to do exercises to make my upper body stronger for running? Which ones and why?
YES YES YES. I always tell my runners, triathletes and clients that running is a full body sport! Every part of you is moving (except the strong stable core, of course!).
A strong upper body can hold good running form and keeps the core tight which leads to running efficiency, meaning less effort is needed and you run smarter not harder! Plus, when you think of how many steps it takes to run a 5k (thousands!) or the marathon (tens of thousands!) people often forget that your arm swings forward and back at the same rate. It comes in handy to have a strong upper body to swing arms for the duration of an endurance race.
Work your upper body by doing pushups, bench tricep dips and rows with weights, machines or resistance bands. The pushups and dips will work full upper body without equipment and the rowing exercise will reinforce back muscles for good posture and all the arm swinging that comes with running.
4. If I’m afraid of using dumbbells or a barbell, what are some effective bodyweight exercises I can do to support running?
You can never go wrong with the 4 basics: squats, lunges, pushups and planks (bonus core exercise). However, in about 12 weeks of body weight exercising you will more than likely plateau (stop seeing results) and you honestly should start incorporating weight bearing exercise. Resistance bands go a long way if you want to take baby steps.
If you’re still at a loss for what to do with weights, hire a personal trainer to get comfortable and learn proper form.
It never hurts to ask someone for help, especially when it comes to lifting weights. Learning from a professional (not youtube) for proper form will give you the confidence and skills you need when you tackle the weights on your own.
5. How many days should I strength train?
Start with 2 days a week which will allow plenty of time for recovery and your body to start getting used to the extra training days.
6. How heavy should I be lifting?
Heavy is relative to the individual, kinda of like your pace for running! If you’ve never strength trained before, stick with body weight for 6-12 weeks and then start slow.
When you use weights if you can get through 15-20 repetitions of an exercise it’s way too light for you. Aim for repetitions somewhere between 8-12 and the last 3 should be hard!
If you’re an advanced runner don’t be afraid of lifting heavy. Every step you take during a run puts the force of 3-4x your body weight on your legs during impact.
If hundreds of pounds of impact happens during each step of your runs, seriously don’t be afraid to make your legs lift heavy in the gym. Ask Kristina, it’s fun and makes you an extremely strong, balanced runner.
7. HELP! I’m so sore the day after lifting that I feel like skipping my run. What should I do?
First, ask yourself if it’s muscle sore or actual joint pain. If it’s “ouch” pain, take a day off and reassess the next day.
If it’s just muscle soreness go run and give yourself some slack if it takes a bit to warm up or you need to adjust your pace slower than usual.
In my experience, running on fatigued legs helps with race day muscle fatigue. And going for a walk when you’re super sore goes a long way to help recover faster.
At the end of the day listen to your body, take a day off or cut a run short if you need it. If you’re constantly battling with soreness, make sure your recovery is on point. Sleep, nutrition, stretching, days off, they are all part of training!
Thanks so much to Cori for sharing her wisdom with us today! I’ve been reading Cori’s blog since the day she launched it and cannot recommend it enough. It’s got running, it’s got lifting and it’s got her super cute dog, LE!
You have got to follow Cori on Instagram @ShesGoingForSpeed for daily inspiration. You won’t regret it!
Do you have any questions for Cori? If so please leave them below!
Have you ever worked with a personal trainer or thought about working with one?