Want to be a Faster Runner? Add Strength Training

Here’s how, when, and why you should be adding strength training into your running routine

You may think that adding that extra mile on to the end of your run is more beneficial to your running than the 10 minutes of strength training you are neglecting, but you’d be wrong. Strength training is a major component of being a well-rounded, strong distance runner. Strength training allows us to literally hold up our body through the miles and miles of running we like to do. Strength training helps minimize the damage we do to ourselves without breaking down.

Using kettle bells are great for on-the-go exercises
How you can add strength training to your running plan

You’re doing a lot of miles – and that’s great for building up a strong base foundation for your later racing. I respect that and I completely get it. But we need to be doing strength training to supplement the running as well.


What is Strength Training?

Strength training, simply is the act of lifting/moving something (or your body) to make you stronger. You might use a kettle bell or dumbbells just as easily as you might use your body weight. Either way, doing strength training (also termed resistance training) helps condition your body to grow and get more powerful.

Remember, strength training does NOT have to be complicated!  There are so many body weight exercises that can be done to improve your strength!


Coach Marc warming up for a track workout
Couple strength and running to maximize your run potential

How I Approach Strength Training

As an older runner, I’ve taken the approach to do a bit of strength training most days of the week.  This means that 4 days a week, I’m doing something in the name of strengthening.  This can be something as small as working on ankle strength and flexibility  Depending on how my body recovers from my runs, greatly impacts what type of strength training I do on that day.  It also depends on the time of year and what training cycle I’m in.  If I’m just starting up my running, I’m much more likely to add in quality strength days, rather than if I’m peaking for my goal race.


How to Add Strength Training

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

Basically, get started with strength training right away. I think the most logical time to add it into your running routine is when you first begin running after a break. When you are starting a new routine, it’s much easier to add in strength to the program.

If you’re passed that point, the next best time is now. You’ll see lots of benefits from the strength work, so what I’d suggest is take 20 minutes, 2-3 times a week and find a very simple body weight routine that you can follow. The goal of these quick sessions is to get in the routine of doing strength work. After about 8 sessions, you’ll start to feel stronger, faster, and more powerful. Once you get into the pattern of adding strength, it’ll come more naturally and you’ll start to want to do strength.


When to Add Strength Training

Strength On Your “Hard” Days

As a high school coach, this was the most ideal time to have my runners do their strength training. Whether it was in the weight room or doing core and abs, I could get more out of my athletes if I kept them longer on days they were running hard.  The selling point to this was that their easy days would be short and I could get them home at a decent time.  Coupling running workouts and strength training makes sense because the body is already prepared to work hard.  The downside to this approach is that the hard days become extra hard.  However, the easy days become super easy.

If you have the time and motivation, I strongly suggest you do your strength training on your longer days – the days where you’re already running for a longer period of time.  Doing your workout (or longer run) and strength training isn’t fun, but it allows you to fully recover on your easy days.

Coach Marc using kettle bells for his squats
Adding strength to your running routine will help you keep injuries at bay

Strength On Your “Easy” Days

The flip side to doing strength training on your hard days is to do them on your light days.  These days present an opportunity to do strength because all you’ve done is a light run.  When you only go a few miles, you have the time to get in your strength training.  I’ve incorporated this into my training when my long days became too long to add strength training to.  This meant that all my days were similar in length and no day was super hard, nor super easy. 

If your long days present a problem with getting strength training in, I suggest doing strength on your easy days.  When you strength train on your easy days, you’re never fully recovered from your workout or strength training which can provide great gains in fitness.

The best tips to add strength training to your running routine, solved! #runcoach #TrainwithMarc

Strength Training Throughout Week 

When I only do 10-15 minutes of strength training a day, I’m never overwhelmed and run down.  I am flexible with what I do, so I’m not tied down to one specific routine.  And when I don’t want to do a routine from above, I can ad-lib and make up a unique program for that day.  

I keep my work flexible and enjoyable which helps me stay motivated to keep up with it.  I’m never sore because I do so little on any given day, so I don’t skip runs or strength training for sore muscles.

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Strength Training Routines You Might Like

I have a few routines that I’d love to share with you.

You can also search my strength routines (for free) on my blog here.

For even more routines, fill in this form with the resource you’d like [you’ll also be added to my Friday newsletter.] I’ll send you a pdf with the workout of your choice.

Below are links to my favorite exercises from over the years:


Tips and strategies to implement strength training into your running routine
All the nuts and bolts about adding strength training to your run routine

Questions You Might Have About Strength Training

Picking the right time for you to do your strength training is a personal one and I can’t say specifically when you should do it.  Ask yourself these questions to better determine when you should do your weekly strength work:

  • Do I have time to do it when I run on my longer days?
  • Am I exhausted after a longer run – and therefore, shouldn’t do strength work?
  • Am I motivated after a workout?
  • Do I like having really long days and really short days?  Or do I prefer all my days to be similar in length (in terms of how much work is done per day)?
  • Does it fit into your schedule on a particular day?

Need a running coach for your next race?

TrainwithMarc will create the training plan so you can focus on your running goals!

Dr. Jack Daniels VDOT & USATF Certified Running Coach
Dr. Jack Daniels VDOT & USATF Certified Running Coach

Marc is a USATF Track and Field & Dr. Jack Daniels VDOT O2 certified running coach. I have more than 19 years of experience running and more than 10 years of experience coaching runners. Click for more information!

Marc is a middle school teacher and coach but also works with distance runners online. I help distance runners around the globe by providing support, writing customized training plans and designing workouts to help them reach their racing goals. I write for my blog every Wednesday morning and newsletter every Friday morning.

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